Be Green, Get Lean: The Secret Benefits of Mass Transit

BlogHer Original Post

Want to drop a size or two without changing your diet or putting in more hours at the gym? Start taking public transit!

That's right. Eco-friendly commuters are losing weight sans diet plan -- at least in Charlotte, North Carolina, where a new light rail line started running. People who took the new green ride to work more than once a week for eight months lost 6.45 pounds, researchers found.

How? Basically, the short walks to and from the train add up pounds shed over time. The easy exercise just becomes part of the commuting routine, so eco-travelers get to reap green and lean health benefits -- without ever having to step on an elliptical machine.

While this finding -- to be published in next month's issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (PDF) -- may be the most recent study linking greener travel to leaner bodies, others have touted public transit's weight-loss promoting capabilities too. Last year, for example, Canadian researchers said public transit riders are three times more likely to be fit than drivers.

Then there are the personal stories. Atlanta resident Lois Fletcher told USA Today that she lost more than 30 pounds by getting out of the car and taking MARTA, Atlanta's transit system. Another Atlanta resident, Sam Moody, also de-car'd -- to lose 70 pounds and gain $3000.

Of course, taking light rail is tough if there's no light rail near you. A couple years ago, the now slimmer commuters in Charlotte, North Carolina, had extra pounds around their waist because they had no light rail to ride. And in fact, I don't have any rail lines near me in Santa Monica; the rail system in the L.A.-area has yet to extend to the western side of the metropolis. We would all be really fat over here, except we can afford the more expensive, slimming fare at Whole Foods.

If you, like me, don't have any rail lines near you, now's the time to become a public transit advocate in your neighborhood. In the meantime, bus riders can also reap the health benefits of riding public transit. So can bicyclists; cycling's on my list of 7 eco-friendly diets that help you live green, save money and lose weight.

So in whatever way you can, make getting out of the car a healthy, slimming resolution for your summer. Beyond the financial and health benefits, you'll find that eco-travel will slowly shift your entire life and perspective. You'll meet more people, experience your neighborhood in new ways, and even get to eat better organic food. Okay -- that last part will happen if you put some of the money from your de-car-ing savings into your grocery budget. Did you know that we spend more money driving than on groceries? No wonder so many people feel they can't afford organic food. They probably could if they didn't drive to the grocery store!

Have you lost weight or gotten fitter by taking public transit? Do you plan to try the public transit diet this summer? Share your experiences and plans with us in the comments.
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BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel cycled to the Santa Monica Farmers Market this morning, balancing a baby basil plant in her bike basket on her way home. She blogs at greenLAgirl.com.

Photos by TheeErin and Richard Masoner, both usable by the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License.

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