Link between car use and obesity

13 Aug 2007 by Karl Hallam

The Institute for European Environmental Policy has published a piece of work that Cadence welcome suggesting a link between obesity and increased car use and decreased walking and cycling. This sounds sensible and a welcome contribution to a debate that is too often dominated by the role of diet. But, fans as Cadence are of moves to make cycling and walking more attractive and safer, there is still a part of the obesity debate that nobody appears to want to get their teeth in to.

It goes something like this ... 40 years ago a lot more people in the UK did cycle and walk to work and this undoubtedly burned up more calories than walking down the drive and getting in to the car each day, something we would not dispute with Lead author of the IEEP report and former colleague of Cadence Adrian Davis. However, a great deal of workers would then roll up their sleeves and get on with some hard manual graft in the mines, foundries and ship yards that employed so many. These jobs were not just dirty, smelly and often dangerous, they took a lot of energy to do ... the sort of energy that meant workers could have bacon and chip butties and few pints each day and keep their figures.

Cadence have already stated in their work with ippr that this 'activity gap' (biggest gap for most deprived, for whom obesity problem is biggest) won't be plugged by more sports particiaption, even if the Government do work out how to get more of running and jumping in preparation for 2012.

Reducing car use certainly does have a significant role to play but, reaching the levels of activity we need to be healthy and keep our weight under control, while so many of us spend the whole day sat on our bums, is set to be a public policy conundrum that is not going to go away.

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