Is Car Culture Keeping Americans Overweight?

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A few years ago we reported on the trend that many new cars aren’t designed to accommodate America’s seemingly ever-expanding waistline, with even popular models like the Chevrolet Corvette ill-prepared to carry two occupants each with a weight of over 200 pounds.

Alarmingly, it's not just sporty coupes and roadsters that can't handle the increased girth of their grocery-getting governors either. Minivans, SUVs/crossovers, and sedans are all skimping on approved passenger weights. Examples include the previous generation Acura TSX, which seats five people, as long as their average weight doesn't exceed 170 pounds, and the Mazda CX-7, which sports similar specifications.

But could it be the car itself that’s causing the obesity epidemic?

According to a new study from researchers at the University of Illinois, America’s love of the car has a direct correlation--99 percent in fact--with obesity rates. Researchers looked at annual vehicle miles traveled per licensed driver from the 1985 to 2007 and found that the more we drove, the heavier as a nation we became.

And it’s not just America where the trend is occurring. Pretty much anywhere where there is increased car use, obesity rates rise. To prove this researchers looked at India and China where a lot of the population are just starting to adopt car use and they discovered similar trends.

The solution? We’re sure you already guessed that one: drive less and walk more. However, with this country’s urban sprawl and lack of suitable public transport, the chances of the average American driver leaving their car at home on their next outing are next-to-nil.

[via Fast Company]
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Comments (6)
  1. YES, but having lived there for several years, in the midwest, I must say that most Americans have no choice. Housing in the U.S. is very spread out and the closest amenities, even a corner store, is often miles away.
    The public transport solution is not completely viable either, as it's nearly impossible to cater to most people who live away from the main roads and train lines.
    I know live in Europe and am without a car, yet I've never been happier. I walk or catch public transport most places, I feel so much healthier and am generally much more active than I ever was in the U.S.

  2. As my stats teacher in university always told me: "correlation does not equal causation." I agree that it probably is a factor, and that people should eat less and walk more. However, I feel those are symptoms of the problem. The problem being terrible education and follow through about how to live a heavy lifestyle, and then on top of that the discipline to actually follow through. Many people drive everywhere, everyday and yet manage to stay healthy.

  3. Thanks Cody for trying to justify that Americans drive their cars down the street when they could easily walk.
    I spent 3 years without a car and I would walk or ride my bike all over town. Those were great years. I never want to lose my ability to be active. The same cannot be said for most of the people I encounter. I want to motive Americans to get up off the couch and walk around, even if its just around your own neighborhood.

  4. Most if not all imported brand cars that can be categorized as "designed for Americans" are more likely to be bigger than their Euro-Asian counterpart ( case in point - Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Volkswagen Passat and their like.. )

  5. Sad, but true. There are some cities where you have more of an ability to leave your car at home and walk to work, the grocery store, etc., but for most of us walking to work would take a full day or more.

  6. I'm sure we would see a similar correlation of more fit people in cities where walking is more prevalent than driving, such as Manhattan.

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