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Is Your Car Making You Fat?

How to break the drive-everywhere habit

A Walking City

Brian Gabrial, PhD, got rid of his car when he moved from Minneapolis for a job in Montreal a year ago. It wasn't a sacrifice. Even in Minneapolis, he often left his car at home, preferring to walk and ride the bus.

"In Montreal, practically everybody uses mass transit," he says. "All bus lines feed into the subway system, making it possible to get anywhere in the city, and it's cheap. I buy a one-month pass for the equivalent of $50 U.S."

Most days he walks the 1 1/2 miles from his apartment to Concordia University, where he's an assistant professor of journalism. In bad weather, he takes the bus.

The biggest hardship? "It's not practical if you're buying a lot of groceries," he tells WebMD. "On the other hand, most stores will deliver."

In a city where pedestrians are the norm rather than a novelty, crossing streets is safe, says Gabrial. "Also, in Montreal drivers can't turn right on a red light," he says.

Several years ago, the 53-year-old professor decided to substitute walking for running due to knee injuries. He walks for exercise as well as for getting around his neighborhood.

"It definitely contributes to my ability to manage weight," he says. "I don't have to diet. But I also subscribe to the algebra theory of living, so if I'm shoveling a lot of junk into my mouth, I need to walk more or spend more time in the gym."

He adds, "There aren't a lot of fat people here."

Reviewed on August 12, 2005

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