Several weeks ago, when the London tube strikes were in effect and countless commuters were looking for alternative travel methods, we put together a map detailing the walking calorie burn figure for each leg of the network. When compiling the information, our intention was to alert commuters to the health benefits of swapping some or all of their daily journey for more physical means. What we didn’t anticipate, however, was that the study would be so well-received and gain such widespread coverage.
Since producing this research, a number of people on social media have asked us if we have plans to conduct similar investigations for networks in other cities. It was then that we decided to turn our attention to those locations, not just in the UK but around the world, which bore a resemblance to central London and had a comparable transit system.
Obesity Prevalence in New York
Perhaps the most logical place for us to start was stateside. Obesity is as much of a problem in the US as it is in the UK. A 2011 report by the New York State Department of Health found that 36% of residents were overweight, and a further 25% were obese. Nationwide, this figure rises; the CDC reports that a total of 69% of the US population is either overweight or obese.
It’s no secret that obesity is a major contributory factor in a variety of serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. With this in mind, it’s important to take those steps available to you to keep your weight at a healthy level.
Taking the Sidewalk to Work
Relying on public transit is a part of everyday life for many living in New York. And, thankfully, unlike London, there appear to be no current disputes or plans for strike action on the New York transport network at time of writing.
Nonetheless, we wanted to highlight the potential advantages of switching up sections of your commute, and opting to walk, jog, or even cycle instead.
So we got to work and put together the following: a comprehensive map of the New York Subway system, with calorie burn information for each individual part of the network.
Click the picture below to get a close up, or click here to see the full version.
(Map layout based on a design by Jake Berman. Website: maps.complutense.org)
How Did We Calculate It?
Figures in the map (and in the tables below) are based on someone walking at a speed of 3 miles per hour, who weighs the average US weight of 179 lbs (or 81kg).
We also decided to go one step further and compile data for the top 10 longest and shortest routes on the network too, including calorie burn information for those choosing to jog or cycle:
Jogging figures are based on someone of the same weight running at 6 miles per hour, and cycling at 10-12 miles per hour (it should be noted, however, that due to the one-way layout in Manhattan, cycling times can vary depending on the direction between stops you’re travelling in).
What Else Did We Find?
The Seventh Avenue and Nassau Street lines were the most walkable, with respective average walking times of 9.1 and 9.4 minutes per leg (that’s roughly 41 calories each).
The Eighth Avenue and Sixth Avenue lines had the highest average leg times, with 12.9 and 13.1 minutes respectively (equating to approximately 58 calories per leg).
But overall in Midtown Manhattan, the average leg time between stops is around 10 minutes walking. For someone who weighs 179 lbs, walking for one minute burns around four and a half calories, making a ten minute walk equivalent to just under 45 calories.
What Do These Results Mean?
As with the London study, we aren’t suggesting that you should spend hours every day walking to work; or that, for instance, someone who travels from Queens to Lower Manhattan on a daily basis should substitute their entire journey for a jog. However, what we are attempting to highlight is that making small changes to your commute can make a substantial difference.
Here’s an example:
- If someone who works in Midtown replaced only the last leg of their subway journey with walking, this would add up to around 10 minutes walking, equating to 45 calories.
- Done twice a day on your commute to and from work, that’s 20 minutes, equating to 90 calories.
- Done over the course of a 5-day week, this would add up to a quite substantial 450 calories. That’s about the same number of calories you might burn in a gym session, by running for 30-40 minutes on the treadmill.
The Benefits of Small Changes
When it comes to exercise, perhaps one of the biggest challenges of living and working in a busy city like New York is finding the time to do it. The numbers in the map above might not seem like much, but over time they can add up. Getting off the subway a stop or two earlier than usual can therefore provide an economic and convenient way to burn off a few extra calories. And this kind of cardiovascular exercise is key to reducing the risk of health conditions such as high blood pressure.
If you live or work in New York, we hope that this information has inspired you to try healthier commuting options. And don’t forget, if the walking calorie burn numbers don’t seem substantial enough for you, you can always try jogging instead. Just remember to pack some appropriate clothing and footwear to get changed into.