2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Leave Your Car At Home

CTA Train Map May 2013Posted 08/25/2014

You must have read somewhere that every piece of research in the past few years has categorically shown the health benefits of walking or bicycling to work. If you live too far away from your workplace to make those options feasible, this Health Tip will make your day.

With walking or cycling, your weight will come down (unless you stop midway for a croissant), as will your risks for a variety of chronic illnesses, notably both diabetes and high blood pressure. This stems from a measurable drop in your BMI, the (albeit imperfect) height-weight calculation that classifies you as normal, underweight, overweight, or obese.

A recent study carried out in the UK and published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that total weekday physical activity was 45% higher in participants who walked to work compared with those who commuted by car. To help us not drive, here in Chicago we’ve got Divvy, a terrific bike-share system that offers unlimited rides for a mere $75 annually, and enough bike safety paths to get you most places without being crushed by an SUV.

“Well,” you snort, “We don’t exactly live in Palo Alto.” This is a definite setback. Last year’s Polar Vortex was a real challenge for both cyclists and pedestrians. Chicago is Siberia in winter, Calcutta in summer, and as I fret over what next January might bring, thinking that renaming our city Chiberia is not unreasonable.

“Plus,” you add, “I live in the suburbs. You really don’t expect me to bike to work, do you?” No, I do not. In fact, if you live in any of the 300+ separately named towns and villages that constitute Chicagoland, walking or cycling to work is likely an impossibility. Trust me, I’m not going to nag you to walk to the Loop from Naperville.

Startlingly good news about mass transport and your health
Here’s the big news. If you take public transportation, regardless what kind you choose, doing so will have the same effect on your BMI (it drops!) and your body fat composition (it drops, too!), just as if you bicycled or walked to work. Read that sentence again…muy importante!

I, too, was skeptical.

But this was a carefully done study from the UK, published last week in the British Medical Journal. Measurements of drivers verus commuters were obtained by public health nurses. When you think about it, the results make sense. Here’s what researchers concluded: if you drive to work, you’re leaving your front door, walking to your car, and sitting down for the next 30, 45, or 60 minutes. Your sole workout comes from changing radio stations, which believe me isn’t impressive when it comes to calorie burning. But if you take public transportation, most people (at least in the UK) either walk or drive to a bus or train station, and when they arrive at their destination either walk or cycle to their workplace.

Just that apparently insignificant amount of activity each workday was sufficient to trigger a measurable drop in BMI, and with it a measurable drop in body fat percentage, high blood pressure, and diabetes risk. To quote directly from an accompanying BMJ editorial, “the most interesting and perhaps important finding of the study was the reduced (body fat) associated with commuting to work by public transport.”

Whittle your waistline, support our earth
Consider your own workday. A serious number of Chicagoans take public transportation to work. If you’re among them, you leave home and walk to a bus stop. Then you stand there (which burns more calories than sitting) waiting, waiting. You clamber onto a bus and often stand some more. Or, arriving at an L stop you climb a monster flight of stairs, stand on the platform, and when the train arrives you usually stand for the duration of your ride. Then you take some more stairs and walk to your place of Dickensian drudgery known as work.

This whole process, done twice daily, five days a week, burns many more calories–and provides a lot more cardio–than investigators ever imagined.

Ultimately, what this research is telling you is leave the car at home. “But…but,” I hear you sputter, “My new Lexus (Corolla, Escort, PC Volt). I’m halfway through paying for it.” So use it to drive to the mall or the grocery, parking as far away from the entrance as possible, or do something that really burns calories and wash it by hand every weekend. Why not make it a personal project to see how much you can reduce your car usage?

(My wife has a 2003 Toyota with 16,000 miles on it. Impressive non-use of a vehicle. Feeling generous, I might pop for a replacement in 2024.)

Finally, pause and ponder the effects of all this on our environment. Every single commuter, whether she uses public transportation, a bicycle, or her legs (but not a car), is doing some overwhelmingly positive karmic work. Her individual effect on reducing global impact may be small, but I am positive, utterly positive, that Gaia is grateful for her efforts.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD

 

Leave a Comment


  1. Rob Humrickhouse says:

    I am an avid Divvy rider and love the program. I feel so much better when I ride to or from work and most times it is as fast or faster than the autos sharing the road. Another thing to note is the presence of many Divvy stations at public transit stops so you can augment exercise during your commute very easily. I don’t think it will be long before there are bike sharing program throughout the region. What we can’t do is just keep building more roads so folks spend more of their time sitting in traffic.

    Just feedback, don’t like the new font, can barely read it so small but love the weekly tips and information. Also, the beige on beige is difficult to read in other areas of the

  2. Richard Doherty says:

    Check out the Active Transport Alliance (formerly the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation for tips on Cycling in different types of weather.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Upcoming Workshops

**Pain Relief with Myofascial Balls
Tuesday, October 29, 6-8pm
With Renee Zambo, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist

Course Fee: $65.00
(includes WholeHealth Chicago Myofascial Release Kit, $40 value)

Does that same spot in your neck, shoulders, back or hips seem to bother you every day? Do you have joint aches and pains in the hands and feet? Would you like to learn ways to alleviate that pain and tension?

Join WholeHealth Chicago’s Yoga and Movement Therapist Renee Zambo for an evening of muscle tension release with myofascial therapy balls.

Space is limited and registration is required.
Please register online.
Call the Center for additional information at (773) 296-6700
More>>

Recent Health Tips

  • Dandruff, Fungi, and Cancer of the Pancreas

    It’s an eye-catching title, I’ll admit. But the links are quite real and further research may guide medicine in new directions of cancer prevention and treatment. It all starts in your gut microbiome, the totality of microorganisms–bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi–present in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, mouth to anus. Until recently, researchers and clinical physicians alike paid virtually no attention to the microbiome and the Read More

  • New Hope For Sinus Sufferers

    When osteopath Dr. Rob Ivker moved to Colorado in the 1980s to set up his family practice, he had no idea that when he stepped off the plane he’d succumb to symptoms of chronic sinusitis that just wouldn’t go away: stuffy nose, thick mucus, pressure behind his cheekbones and above his eyebrows, dull aching headache, and thick goopy drainage in the back of his throat. Read More

  • Director of IV Therapies Katie McManigal, BSN, ANP

    Most people at some point in their lives have had an intravenous (IV) line. An adept nurse warned you about the tiny pinch of the needle as it was smoothly inserted and taped in place.  Then the  fluid dangling above your head slowly started making its way through a tube and into your body. IVs are all over the place in hospitals. They’re seen in Read More

October Sale – Save 20% off UltraMeal Rice

UltraMeal RICE is a tasty, non-dairy, nutritionally fortified, powdered meal replacement for those who want to support healthy body composition but may be sensitive to soy.

Click here to take advantage of this month’s promotion!