SATURDAY, Sept. 4, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- A new study confirms what seems obvious: people who live in communities where walking and cycling are common are less likely to be overweight or obese.
The researchers analyzed statistics about walking and cycling in 14 countries, and also studied data about walking and cycling to work in all 50 states and in 47 of the largest U.S. cities.
They found that the highest levels of walking and cycling among the countries studied were in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Spain, while the lowest levels were in the United States, Australia and Canada. Among U.S. cities, the highest rates of walking and cycling to work were in Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Minneapolis and Seattle.
The researchers also found a connection between more walking and cycling and lower levels of obesity and diabetes, according to the report released online Aug. 19 in advance of publication in the October print issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
"It's really important to promote walking and cycling as safe, convenient and feasible modes of getting around on an everyday basis," lead author John Pucher, a professor who studies transportation at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said in a Center for Advancing Health news release.
He acknowledged that the link between higher levels of exercise and healthier weight may seem obvious, but said there is a need for scientific evidence to prove it.
"As obvious as it is, it's shocking that Americans don't want to do anything about it. It's amazing how unconcerned most Americans are about this," Pucher said.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a guide to physical activity.