When we think about achieving our weight loss goals, tactics like cutting the number of calories we consume likely come to mind. But what about spending less time in the car?
A new study from the University of Illinois shows that in addition to how many calories we eat, the amount of time we spend traveling by car each day instead of exercising may also be linked with our body mass index.
"The most important thing for people to learn from this study is that they have a choice," study researcher Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science and mathematics at the university, said in a statement. "One has to be just as careful about when you choose to drive as when you choose to eat. These small changes in our driving and dietary habits can lead to long-term significant changes in obesity issues. Those are the kind of changes we advocate."
The findings, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, included nationwide data on BMI, with relation to how many calories Americans consume each day and how many miles they drive each day.
By using a mathematical model, the researches were able to find that after six years, driving one fewer mile a day is linked with a decrease of 0.21 kilograms per meter squared in BMI nationally.
Researchers also found that decreasing calorie intake by 100 calories each day is linked with a decrease of 0.16 kilograms per meter squared in BMI nationally.
"One mile is really not much," study researcher Banafsheh Behzad, a graduate student at the university, said in the statement. "If they would just consider even taking the bus, walking the distance to the bus stop could have an impact like eating 100 calories less per day. The main thing is paying attention to caloric intake and moving more, together, can help reduce BMI."
For some ideas to get more steps in your day, click through the slideshow:
Pace the room while waiting at the doctor's office. <strong>More from Health.com:</strong> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20432121,00.html" target="_hplink">10 Ways to Walk Off Fat Faster</a> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20500418,00.html" target="_hplink">9 Easy Ways to Sneak in More Exercise</a> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20395219,00.html" target="_hplink">20 Ways to Torch 200 Calories</a>
Grocery shopping? Make an extra tour around the perimeter aisles before checking out.
Use the restroom one floor down (or up) at work instead of heading for the one just down the hall.
Ditto with your coffee.
Hide the remote so you have to actually get up to change the channel. Better yet, turn off the TV.
Park The Car
Instead of fighting other drivers for that single open spot near the door, do your blood pressure a favor and park several rows away.
Don't Just Sit There
Walk <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20355765,00.html" target="_hplink">around the block </a>while your kid is taking dance class/playing soccer/whatever.
Get Off The Bus
Get off the bus or subway one stop early.
Brush Your Teeth
March in place while brushing your teeth (go ahead and shut the door first if you'd like).
Get The Mail
Going to the mailbox? Take a tour around the house first -- then take the time to say hello to that chatty neighbor who flags you down.
Walk To The Store
Hoof it to the store when you're only buying a few easy-to-carry items.
Don't Send That Email
Walk over to your coworker's desk instead of e-mailing her.
Make it a nightly habit to go for an after-dinner stroll with the family.
Early for an appointment? Walk around the block instead of adding to your interminable time in the waiting room.
Take a daily afternoon "brainstorming" walk.
Wander the room while chatting on the phone.
Walk To School
Walk your child to school instead of waiting in the endless carpool line.
Instead of cooping yourself and your coworkers up in a stuffy conference room, make your next meeting a walking one.
Headed to the mall? Stroll the length of it once before you start buying -- and scout the sales while you're at it.
Set An Alarm
Set the alarm on your computer to go off every hour or two, then take a quick tour around the floor (or even just a trip up and down the hall) when it does.
Next time you have to run a couple of errands, park midway between your destinations and walk to them both. In between, pause to leave the dry cleaning in the car before strolling over to pick up your best friend's birthday gift.
Forget The Stilletos
Leave the stilettos in the closet and charm your hubby (or boyfriend) into taking a moonlit walk after dinner at your favorite restaurant.
No More Escalators
Tell yourself that you're allergic to escalators and act accordingly.
Instead of getting together with the girls for a stay-put meal, plan an evening of window-shopping or an afternoon of new-neighborhood scouting.
Take The Scenic Route
Whenever possible (and safe), take the scenic route! <strong>More from Health.com:</strong> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20432121,00.html" target="_hplink">10 Ways to Walk Off Fat Faster</a> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20500418,00.html" target="_hplink">9 Easy Ways to Sneak in More Exercise</a> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20395219,00.html" target="_hplink">20 Ways to Torch 200 Calories</a>
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