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Quiet Down to Slim Down

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Traffic Noise May Increase Risk of Larger Waistline
We all know the frustration of sitting in heavy traffic, but could congestion on the roads be harmful even when in our homes? Stop the beeping car horns—it’s time to quiet down and listen up! A 2015 study published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine suggests the closer we live to noisy traffic, the bigger our waistlines will be.

Swedish researchers analyzed 5,075 adults living in suburban and semirural areas near Stockholm, Sweden. Using official measurements of noise linked to specific areas on the map, researchers determined how much road traffic, railway and aircraft noise participants are exposed to daily based on their addresses. They also collected data on height, weight, waist and hip circumference, dietary habits and other lifestyle factors.

Analysis showed a link between traffic noise exposure and waistlines, and ruled out other factors that may affect waist size such as diet, exercise and income. For women, every 5 decibel increase in road traffic noise corresponded to a 0.21 centimeter increase in waist size. The more sources of noise a person was exposed to, the greater their risk of a larger midriff. Compared with people exposed to only one source of noise, those who lived amongst road, rail and air traffic noise had 25% heightened risk of larger waistlines. Researchers note noise is a stressor that may increase cortisol production, a hormone that promotes belly fat storage.

While we can’t suggest that you up and move if you live near noisy roads, we do suggest reducing the sound volume in your daily life. Summer is a great time to get away from noise and experience nature. Spend the afternoon in a quiet park or take a hike on local trails. If you have a whole weekend, round up the family for a trip to the mountains or nearby lake. A little quiet time may help your waistline, plus spending time in nature has been linked to other health benefits such as better memory and improved mood. This summer do your body and mind a favor and get outside to enjoy nature’s beauty.

BONUS: Banish the TV noise too! Last month we challenged readers to turn off their TVs after a study found each hour spent watching TV increased the risk of developing diabetes by 3.4%. What better time than summer to get off the couch and head outdoors?

Published July 1, 2015

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