Public Transit is Good For Your Health

When we talk about public transit, the discussion usually focuses on cost savings to users or the impact on carbon emissions. According to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health, taking public transit is not just good for our wallets and our planet, but for our bodies as well.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults do at least two and a half hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity every week. While the word “aerobic activity” generally conjures up images of treadmills and elliptical machines, moderate intensity aerobics are activities that are often already engrained in our daily lives. This includes things like tennis, gardening, bicycling (at speeds under 10 mph), and brisk walking. Without realizing it, regular public transit users may be getting their entire recommended amount of moderate intensity exercise while walking to and from their trains.

The study found that those who live in large cities with rail systems are 72 percent more likely to spend at least 30 minutes a day walking to and from public transit. When done every day, they will get the two and a half hours of weekly exercise that the CDC recommends. From 2001 to 2009, the number of people transit walking at least 30 minutes a day rose from 2.6 million to 3.4 million. With continued investment in rail systems, the number of people reaping the health benefits of transit walking will continue to grow.

These insights provide an important reminder of the connection between public transit and public health. Built urban environments can either facilitate or hinder physical activity, and the ability to safely walk to public transportation is an integral part of this. Not only must policymakers and city planners make effective public transit a priority, but they must also be sure to equip neighborhoods near rail stations with the infrastructure necessary to make them safe for pedestrians. As we plan to expand walkable public transit access in Chicago, it is likely that improved cardiovascular health and lower body weight will follow close behind.

Copies of the study can be downloaded here.>>