So says Charles Courtemanche, a Washington University doctoral candidate, in his dissertation titled, A Silver Lining? The Connection between Gas Prices and Obesity.
From his studies, Courtemanche estimates that an additional $1 in real gasoline prices would reduce obesity in the U.S. by 15 percent after five years. Moreover, he says, some 13 percent of the rise in obesity between 1979 and 2004 can be attributed to falling real gas prices during that time.
Why? From the paper:
If the price of gas rises, the cost of driving also rises, which may affect body weight in two ways. First, people may substitute from driving to walking, bicycling, or taking public transportation. Walking and bicycling are forms of exercise, which increase calories expended. If a person uses public transportation, such as subways, buses, trolleys, or rail services, the need to move to and from the mass transit stops is likely to result in additional walking, again increasing calories expended....MORE