Researchers analyzed 14 nations to see how they rank in terms of biking- and walking-friendly areas and to see how those areas might have an impact on the health of populations.

Their findings are to be published in the October edition of American Journal of Public Health and claim a correlation between an increased risk of obesity and diabetes and places that are "unfriendly" for biking and walking activities.

According to the researchers, the Swiss, Dutch and Spanish are the fittest while Americans, Australians and Canadians fall fat.

John Pucher, a professor and transportation researcher at Rutgers University in the US state of New Jersey who led the study, explained, "It's really important to promote walking and cycling as safe, convenient and feasible modes of getting around on an everyday basis."

"Physical activity is crucial. If we keep designing communities in ways that make driving the more rational choice, we can expect health care costs to go up and quality of life to go down," noted Lawrence Frank, an associate professor who studies transportation at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

Additionally, John M. MacDonald, PhD, a criminologist and co-author of a study published in the August edition of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, explained on June 30 to National Public Radio (NPR), a nonprofit membership US-based media organization, "commuters who took light rail to work regularly were 6.45 pounds [2.93 kg] lighter than the folks who drove."

Hopping the metro promotes walking and climbing stairs and may keep you fit it you don't live in an area where commuting by foot or bike is not conducive.

Full study, "Walking and cycling to health: a comparison of recent evidence from city, state, and international studies":
Full study, "The Effect of Light Rail Transit on Body Mass Index and Physical Activity":