Taking the bus or train can help you avoid the headache of traffic. Whether or not it can help shrink your waist is another story.

Depending on where you live, you may drive to work — suffering through endless traffic, relying on carpools and spending hours in the car. But if you have access to a reliable form of public transportation, like the subway or the bus, you build activity into your day.

Whether you have to walk a few blocks to the nearest bus stop or hustle between transfers between subway lines, you’re still sneaking in a little exercise here and there. But how helpful is that when it comes to actually losing weight?

As it turns out, that extra exercise from walking or even cycling to work certainly has health benefits, but those don’t include significant, long-term weight loss, according to Kamran Samakar, MD, assistant professor of clinical surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

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“Exercise is great,” said Dr. Samakar, who also is a general surgeon at Keck Medicine of USC. “However, exercise is not the key to losing weight.”

Still, what exercise can do is still significant, according to Dr. Samakar: It can help you sleep better and will improve your cardiovascular health, among other things. But, he clarified that “weight loss is really about what you eat.” Meals that are full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein will be more helpful for losing weight than most forms of moderate exercise, including any you could possibly get from taking public transportation.

Still, daily exercise, even small amounts of it, is essential to your overall health. To improve your cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week — and walking to and from the bus stop certainly counts.

Plus, let’s not discount the fact that taking public transportation on a regular basis is far better for the environment than driving. So, even though you won’t see dramatic weight loss from it, taking public transportation is much more beneficial for both your body and the planet than not.

The next time the weather is good and you have the time to do so, it’s worth giving public transportation a shot. You might even get to the office early.

By Deanna Pai

Curious about weight loss surgery? Make an appointment with one of the weight loss specialists at Keck Medicine of USC. To schedule an appointment, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit weightloss.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.