Leaner nations bike, walk, use mass transit?


Or are they leaner because they bike, walk, and use mass transit?

Americans, with the highest rate of obesity, were the least likely to walk, cycle or take mass transit, according to the study in a recent issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. The study relied on each country’s own travel and health data.

Only 12 percent use active transportation in the United States — 9 percent walk, 1 percent ride a bike and 2 percent take a bus or train — while a quarter to a third are obese, the study said.

By comparison, 67 percent of commuters in Latvia, 62 percent in Sweden and 52 percent in the Netherlands either walk, bike or use mass transit. Latvia’s obesity rate is 14 percent, the Netherlands’ is 11 percent and Sweden’s is 9 percent.

Overall, “Europeans walk three times as far and cycle five times as far as Americans” [source].

The headlines of the article undermines the actual findings of the study which in fact highlight the lifestyle choices that are the primary reasons for the differences in addition to Europe’s more dense urbanscape. I’m sure cities like New York, Portland, and San Francisco see significantly higher rates of walking and cycling compared to other cities in the U.S. The United States is more heterogenous than most European countries who have had a longer and continued history of social interaction and more interactive urban living.