Driving Habits and Obesity

Sugar filled drinks, fast food, and even video games have all been blamed for America’s growing obesity epidemic. But a new research study from the University of Illinois suggests that the real culprit may be sitting right outside in the driveway: our cars.

University of Illinois professor and researcher Sheldon H. Jacobson argues in a new study that Americans’ dependence on their cars leads to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. The more time we spend sitting in traffic and driving, the less time we spend engaged in physical activity. When you sit in a car, your body is essential doing nothing. That means the calories from the big lunch you ate are also just sitting there, and not getting burned.

Over the last century, Jacobson argues, we’ve shifted our society to one that relies primarily on getting from Point A to Point B in a car. Whether it’s your daily commute to the office, picking the kids up from soccer practice or driving to the grocery store, our nation is spending more time driving and less time walking than ever before. This creates an energy deficit. As calorie consumption stays the same (or increases in some cases, thanks to all those sugary soft drinks and fast food meals), the extra calories end up as pounds of stored fat on our bodies.

So what does this mean for you? You may already know that a key part of successful lap-band surgery is changing your lifestyle and incorporating physical activity into your daily routine. Reducing the amount of time you spend driving and supplementing it with time spent walking or biking is key to successful weight loss surgery.

Here in Michigan the weather, especially in the winter, is not always conducive to walking or biking to work. When it’s nice outside, however, take advantage of the sunshine and leave the car at home. If you can, take a bus or public transportation to the office. Consider getting off one stop earlier and walking an extra few blocks.

When shopping or running errands, park in one central place and walk from store to store, rather than parking and driving to each destination. Or park at the back of the parking lot and walk rather than trying to snag a front space.

Even if you can’t get avoid a long commute, balance the time spent in the car with time spent being active. Whether it’s playing outside with the kids, taking a dance class or just hitting the gym, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

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