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Another Perk to Riding Public Transit: Shedding Pounds
Monday, May 22, 2017 9:00 AM

Montage of Bike-to-Work Day

Houston, we have a fat problem.

Americans are the most obese people in the world – with costly consequences. Which cities are the fattest? Jackson, Miss., ranks No. 1 – while Houston weighs in at No. 17, according to WalletHub which analyzes 100 of the most populated metro areas nationwide.

Now, a new study shows that a robust transit system can contribute to healthier communities with lower obesity rates. University of Illinois researchers concluded that higher mass transit use correlated with lower obesity rates in counties across the nation.

“Our research suggests that investing in convenient and affordable public transit systems may improve public health by reducing obesity, thereby providing more value than had been previously thought,” said Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois.

Here in Houston, about 400 residents biked to work last Friday, celebrating “Bike-to-Work Day” with Mayor Sylvester Turner. The fun ride was designed to introduce Houstonians to bikeways, including the city’s off-street trail network. Bike riders wheeled along the city’s recent extension of its first two-way separated bike lane, known as the “green mile.”

The route started and ended at City Hall, weaving through Buffalo Bayou. About 15 METRO employees were among the crowd, as well as Harris County Comm. Rodney Ellis and METRO Board Member Sanjay Ramabhadran, who rode the light-rail first, then disembarked at Central Station to join the bicyclists.

Using multiple modes of transportation to get around can give people a workout that becomes part of their commute – and that’s good for the community and the environment.

The University of Illinois study, published in “Preventive Medicine,” showed that for each one percent increase in a county’s population who frequently ride public transportation, obesity rates declined 0.2 percent.

So dust off your bike and pedal. Or walk to the nearest bus stop and take METRO to your final destination. Not only will you be saving gas and reducing your carbon footprint, you’ll be whittling your waistline at the same time.

 

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