(HealthDay News) – Cutting car travel can be as effective as reducing calories in lowering body mass index (BMI), according to research published online Dec. 5 in Preventive Medicine.

Banafsheh Behzad, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and colleagues analyzed BMI data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS; 1984–2010), vehicle miles traveled data (1970–2009) from the Federal Highway Administration, licensed drivers data (1970–2009) from the Federal Highway Administration, and adult average daily caloric intake data (1970–2009) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A statistical model to provide an estimate of changes in the average adult BMI associated with changes in automobile travel and caloric intake was proposed.

Using their model, the researchers found that reducing daily automobile travel by one mile per driver would be associated with a 0.21kg/m² reduction in the national average BMI after six years. In addition, there would be a 0.16kg/m² reduction in the national average BMI after three years by reducing daily caloric intake by 100 calories per person.

“Making small changes in travel or diet choices may lead to comparable obesity interventions, implying that travel-based interventions may be as effective as dietary interventions,” Behzad and colleagues conclude.

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