Car travel driving us to obesity

The Sunday Telegraph

Sunday 16 June 2002

By transport writer ROD SMITH

SYDNEY commuters who travel by car face substantial health risks from physical inactivity, according to a transport report.

The University of Sydney's Warren Centre for traffic research found that habitual car use contributed to making 41 per cent of Sydneysiders overweight or obese.

“Increased car use has displaced active transport -- walking, cycling and using public transport,” the report said.

“Current transport and infrastructure foster habitual car use. Consequently almost half the population is exposed to substantial health risk from physical inactivity.”

The report, Healthy Transport, Healthy People, is due to be released in the next few weeks and is part of a three-year research project by the Warren Centre entitled Sustainable Transport In Sustainable Cities.

“Our travel habits help determine our health,” the report said. “The most effective and enduring way of increasing our physical activity is by using `active transport' rather than driving.”

The centre said that public transport provided “incidental exercise” at a time when 40 per cent of NSW city dwellers were not active enough.

“Physical activity almost halves the risk of cardiovascular disease and also reduces the risk of diabetes, osteoporosis and colon cancer,” the report said. Another aspect of increased car usage was a predicted rise in the numbers of traffic accidents as the population of Sydney ages.

“Public and active transport infrastructure is required as a safer, healthier alternative for the over 60s of the future who are predicted to have a 143 per cent higher rate of crash involvement,” the report found.

Air quality would also suffer with increased pollutants being injected into the environment.
The Warren Centre put forward a number of recommendations.

These included facilities to encourage walking and cycling, investment in public transport, more car-free zones and walk-to-school programs.