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Driving Towards Obesity

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

Results from “Driving towards obesity: A systematized literature review on the association between motor vehicle travel time and distance weight status in adults”

McCormack, G.R & Virk, J. S


Car culture and the obesity epidemic

Motorized vehicles have become a mode of transportation that are used more often than active transportation methods like cycling or walking. This increased usage of motorized vehicles may be a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic as individuals who regularly commute by car may experience a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese than individuals who regularly commute by bicycle(1,2). The built environment may be an important variable impacting an individual’s choice to travel using active transportation methods. Further research is needed to investigate the relationship between motor vehicle driving distance/time and the weight status of adult populations. A literature review was conducted to estimate the connections of driving behaviours with the risk of overweight status and obesity.

How driving is related to health

From the reviewed literature, 80% of the studies suggested that an increase in driving behaviour is associated with an increased risk of overweight and obese weight statuses. Both an increase in time spent driving and the distance driven by private motorized vehicles were found to relate to poorer weight status among adults. The creation of pedestrian and cyclist oriented environments that support or facilitate active travel as a more convenient method of transportation are needed. This may be beneficial in reducing the reliance on motorized vehicles and encouraging a healthier weight in adult populations.

Suggested citation: McCormack, G. R., & Virk, J. S. (2014). Driving towards obesity: A systematized literature review on the association between motor vehicle travel time and distance and weight status in adults. Preventive Medicine, 66, 49–55. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.06.002

Written by Emma Chong, Bkin (Hons.) | Posted January 28th, 2020



1. French, S.A., Story, M., Jeffery, R.W., 2001. Environmental influences on eating and physical activity. Annu. Rev. Public Health 22, 309–335.

2. Lindstrom, M., 2008. Means of transportation to work and overweight and obesity: a population-based study in southern Sweden. Prev. Med. 46, 22–28

3. Frank, L.D., Saelens, B.E., Powell, K.E., Chapman, J.E., 2007. Stepping towards causation: do built environments or neighborhood and travel preferences explain physical activity, driving, and obesity? Soc. Sci. Med. 65, 1898–1914.


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