LONG distance commuters are more likely to be overweight, a study has found.
Research by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed a link between how far people drove to work and their waistlines.
People who spent a large part of the day driving to work also had higher blood pressure and lower cardiovascular fitness.
The research was based on a survey of 4,300 people at Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas , two of the most congested areas in the United States.
"Longer commuting distance may lead to a reduction in overall energy expenditure," said Christine Hoehner of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who led the study.
A key factor was the ability of commuters to undertake some moderate or vigorous exercise as recommended by health experts.
Those who commuted more than 15 miles to work were less likely to have time to get fit than those who travelled shorter distances.
The study also found blood pressure was higher among those who drove more than 10 miles to their workplace.
"This study yields new information about biological outcomes and commuting distance, an understudied contributor to sedentary behavior that is prevalent among employed adults," Ms Hoehner added.
Her findings echo other studies. Last year two Florida researchers, Ariel Godwin and Anne Price, found obesity rates were higher in states where commuting by car was most prevalent.
Although they said other factors including education and income should be taken into account, obesity was found to be worse in states in the south east USA where car use was highest.
They added: “While it is not our intent to claim a direct causal link between transportation modes and obesity rates, it is hard to deny the existence of some geographic patterns.
“Perhaps lower rates are driven by a cumulative effect of a more affluent and educated population.”
In Britain, the findings did not surprise Stephen Joseph, executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport, an environmental pressure group.’
“Commuting by car is bound to be linked to obesity if you commute by public transport you still have to walk to places.”