Does active transportation add to overall physical activity, or substitute for other exercise?

New research investigates whether people who spend more time walking and biking daily to work and errands spend less time exercising overall. The study findings indicate the opposite—the likelihood of recreational exercise is actually higher, rather than lower, for people participating in active travel. In other words, active travel adds to overall daily physical activity, rather than substituting for other exercise.

Walkable neighborhoods surge ahead

While many Americans are currently discouraged from walking because their neighborhoods are not built for travel by foot, communities that facilitate walking may be the future of new development. A survey by GfK Research for Kaiser Permanente shows that Americans both know walking is a healthy activity and that many neighborhood do not facilitate walking. But other studies in Atlanta and Washington, DC, show that walkable communities are attracting the majority of new investment, even in one of the most car-oriented metro areas.

Health Cobenefits and Transportation-Related Reductions in Greenhouse Gas Emissions inthe San Francisco Bay Area (American Journal of Public Health, 2013)

Research shows that increased physical activity associated with active transport could generate a large net improvement in population health. Measures would be needed to minimize pedestrian and bicyclist injuries. Together, active transport and low-carbon driving could achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions.