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"Well, generally, they deliver the mail by foot in Canada and the U.S."

What? My mail carrier drives from post-box to post box and won't deliver to you if your post box is too far back from the road.


Just another example of research studies proving what is common sense. As if a study would prove the opposite - that being active actually INCREASED obesity and diabetes???! It's too bad that tons of money is being spent on researching medical "cures" for such things as diabetes and obesity when for the majority of people, becoming more active solves the problem. Imagine if even 25% of that money was spent on bike infrastructure instead! But in the U.S. at least, we prefer the quick and easy route of taking a pill :)


Traci, perhaps it is common knowledge that activity does not increase obesity, but both the mechanisms and the degree to which certain types and quantities of exercise lead to various degrees of fitness needs to be better understood. In the 80's you may have been hard pressed to convince someone that anything less than high intensity aerobic exercise provided any health benefits. What's changed since then? Research.

Do we need to encourage walking? or provide sports infrastructure for high intensity exercise? Do the health benefits of walking or cycling outweigh the inherent risks? how much exercise should be encouraged to minimize healthcare costs? These are all empirical questions that require this type of research to quantify. This type of research is actually quite cheap compared to the kind of research needed to answer causal questions like "how much of this result is driven by overweight people avoiding exercise, versus exercise actually causing people to become healthier."


re: "do the benefits of walking or cycling outweigh the inherent risks?"

While research is ongoing, there is a fair body of peer-reviewed research already published on the subject of whether or not cycling, as an activity, generates benefits that outweigh the risks.

Here is one recent, comprehensive and particularly well-written review of research to date:


For readers not inclined to actually read studies, here's the short answer: Yes, by a factor of 20 to 1.


Jason - I definitely didn't mean that all research is worthless (I would hope not, as I'm a researcher myself!), but it's frustrating to see research outcomes stating "those who bike or walk are less obese than those who always travel by car." I agree with you that research is needed to prove the benefits of specific types of exercise, appropriate intensity, risks vs. benefits, etc. I'd love to see research provide proof of a specific amount of exercise decreasing healthcare costs - that would be something that many would take note of!

John Spragge

As someone who recently bid farewell to 20 kilos through bicycling and watching what I ate, I say you can't tell people this too many times. Almost 50000 people in North America die in car crashes every year (that makes close to 200,000 people since 9/11, if anyone wants to count), but debilitating and life-shortening illnesses caused by inactivity take a much greater toll. The police talk about the horror of having to clean up after a car crash, but I have a chilling thought for them: they may actually get to deal with the luckier victims of our culture's motoring obsession.

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