Monday, September 3, 2012

A Graphic About Driving and Obesity

Why are so many Americans overweight? If I had the answer, I'd be rich and famous, and would be writing this blog - actually, scratch that, dictating this blog - from the comfort of an armchair overlooking the Mediterranean. People have suggested a lot of answers to this question, from too much saturated fat, to too many carbs, to hidden food allergies, to undiagnosed thyroid conditions. These are all potential causes in unique cases, but when we are looking at the US population as a whole, none of these really hold up as the primary cause.

This fantastic graphic looks at driving as a cause of obesity. The graphic (which can be enlarged) charts state-by-state use of public transportation, bicycles, and cars, as well as walking rates, and then correlates them to obesity rates. The chart doesn't show direct one-to-one causation, but a general trend can be seen - the more we drive, the less we walk, bike and ride public transit, and the more we weigh.

Now obviously, this isn't an formal study, and the graphic doesn't give important information like caloric intake by state, but does give us a worthwhile message - one reason that Americans are overweight isn't because they eat McDonald's, it isn't because they drink soda instead of water, it isn't even because they haven't joined a gym to take spinning classes - it's because they don't incorporate low-intensity regular exercise into their activities of daily living. Walking to work, biking to work, even walking to and from the bus we take to work apparently help maintain normal weight, and in no small part.

Shedding weight can be a more difficult process, and one which may necessitate the assistance of a health professional, but this graphic underlines the importance of the basics - just because you haven't signed up for a rigorous weight loss program with a personal trainer doesn't mean you're doing nothing.