Travel By Car Driving Obesity Epidemic, Say Researchers

Holiday travel by car might be less expensive than flying, a train trip or a Christmas cruise to festive destinations, but new research urges caution while driving – not for safety’s sake, but because of a direct relationship suggested between body mass index (BMI), calories consumed and automobile travel.

A new study by University of Illinois researchers suggests that both daily automobile travel and calories consumed are related to body weight. Reducing either one, even a little bit, correlates with a reduction in body mass index (BMI), the study found.

“We’re saying that making small changes in travel or diet choices may lead to comparable obesity reduction, which implies that travel-based interventions may be as effective as dietary interventions,” says graduate student Banafsheh Behzad in a Business Standard report.

Using publicly available data on national average BMI, caloric intake and driving habits, the study found that driving just one mile a day less can make a difference.

“One mile is really not much,” Behzad says. “If they would just consider even taking the bus, walking the distance to the bus stop could have an impact like eating 100 calories less per day. The main thing is paying attention to caloric intake and moving more, together, can help reduce BMI.”

Great idea. But if I walked to the bus stop I would have to swing by the gas station on the way to buy donuts, “for the trip,” throwing the national BMI way off track.

On the other hand, childhood obesity is declining, probably because little kids don’t drive. This video tells the story:

[Photo Credit- Flickr user mor10am]

The Caucasus, Central Asia And British Airways

I traveled to Beirut earlier this year with bmi (British Midland International), the East Midlands-based airline partially absorbed into British Airways in the spring. My Beirut trip was meant to be the third installment in an ongoing series called “Far Europe and Beyond,” which reached a premature end in the lead-up to the airline’s sale to International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent of British Airways and Iberia.

“Far Europe and Beyond” was, as its title suggests, focused on several cities along on Europe’s margins and just beyond. I visited Tbilisi and Yerevan last year, Beirut earlier this year, and had hoped to carry on to three additional cities, one (Baku) within Europe and Almaty and Bishkek (see above), both indisputably outside of Europe.

BA has absorbed many bmi routes and withdrawn others. I did a little cursory research and discovered that two of the cities I originally proposed for the series (Bishkek and Yerevan) have been dropped – as has Tehran, where the Yerevan-London bmi flight I took last October originated.

Last week, in response to an email query, a helpful British Airways spokesperson confirmed that the above destinations have indeed not been included in BA’s winter schedule. When I asked whether or not BA had any intention to initiate new routes to the Caucasus and Central Asia, she told me that there were no immediate plans to do so, and added that she suspected that future route development would focus on destinations further east. She also pointed out that the airline has just begun to fly nonstop between London and Seoul, an exciting development in light of the ascendance of Korean popular culture and the recent debut of a Seoul-based correspondent at Gadling.

Here’s a little plea to British Airways: please bring these cities back, perhaps looped into other routes on a once-a-week basis. What about a stop in Bishkek coming back from Almaty or a stop in Yerevan en route to Tbilisi?If these routes can’t be returned to service, perhaps they could be replaced with similarly enthralling new destinations in the general neighborhood, all direct from London. What about a flight to Uralsk, gateway to the gas reserves of West Kazakhstan’s Karachaganak Field? How about seasonal flights to Georgia’s Black Sea holiday town of Batumi? What about making a big pre-Olympic fuss over Sochi? (The 2014 Winter Olympics are just 15 months away.) Why not resume a previously abandoned route to Ekaterinburg?

Pleasing me would form a terrible basis for route development decisions, granted, but there have to be profitable routes in this general region that are not served by other oneworld alliance airlines.

Do it for the love of commerce and industry in the post-Soviet space, BA.

[Image: Flickr | Thomas Depenbusch]

Introducing Far Europe and Beyond

Far Europe and Beyond, a Gadling series in partnership with bmi (British Midland International) launches today.

Europe’s eastern borders cannot be defined simply. The western, northern, and southern perimeters are easy: The Atlantic, the Arctic, and the Mediterranean provide those boundaries, respectively. It’s the eastern border that is more difficult to pinpoint. There are two basic definitions of the eastern border of Europe: the Bosphorus, which divides Istanbul; and the Ural Mountains. The problem here is that there is a gap of around 1200 miles between the point where the Ural River hits the Caspian Sea and Istanbul.

The former definition leaves most of Turkey outside of Europe and makes it difficult to draw a continental border from the Bosphorus northward. If one assumes the latter definition, then a piece of western Kazakhstan is in Europe, but the continent’s Eastern flank fails to have a fixed boundary once the Ural river empties into the Caspian Sea. Does Europe’s border then get drawn along Russia’s southern edge or does it include the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, along the Iranian border? Increasingly, this is the working definition of Europe, with inclusion of the Caucasian trio; it is the definition, more or less, that the BBC and the Economist endorse.However we define Europe’s eastern borders, there are a number of national capitals that are clearly in the farthest reaches of Europe or just beyond them, all of which are included on bmi’s route map: Tbilisi, Georgia; Yerevan, Armenia; Baku, Azerbaijan; Beirut, Lebanon; Almaty, Kazakhstan (not the capital, admittedly, but the country’s most important city); and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. These capital cities are naturally very interesting to veteran travelers for whom Europe is old hat, but they’re also fascinating places for less seasoned travelers. For the most part, they’re off the beaten path, teeming with local culture and opportunities for many different types of tourism.

This week and next, I’ll write a series of posts on the first two cities on the above list: Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia; and Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. I’ll look at some of these cities’ most captivating characteristics, some culinary highlights, interesting quirks, and the best easy day trips beyond city limits.

[Image: Flickr | sara~]

Win two flights to anywhere bmi flies with a video entry

bmi continues it’s summer bmifriday campaign this week, this month asking visitors to submit user generated entries cheering on the product. Videos can include any content, but have to say something about the campaign. Videos that earn the most page views (and the marketing department’s favor) by the end of September will earn two free round trip tickets to anywhere that bmi flies.

And to where does bmi fly? Including codeshare flights, bmi serves over 30 destinations in North America and hundreds more across the planet. Two tickets to anywhere in their network could thus be very valuable.

Here at Gadling Labs we’re always up for a challenge so we created a bmifriday entry of our own. Stir up a big pot of creativity and you’ll surely get more than the 7 hits we’ve collected so far.

Israel, Mecca … no difference to British BMI

Passengers headed to Israel on a British BMI flight were alarmed to find their destination was Mecca, according to the in-flight map. The airline, it seems, isn’t terribly aware that the Middle East is know for a tiny amount of tension that’s lasted for decades (the most recent iteration, at least).

Pick your joke about “wiping Israel off the map” – the Sydney Morning Herald did.

BMI, of course, denies an anti-Israel bias and cites a technical screw-up. The carrier, which has operated low-cost flights to Israel for more than a year, says it bought two plans from a bankrupt charter company that focused on Muslim destinations. The in-filght systems were programmed to highlight Islamic holy places.

It’s not discrimination. Instead, it’s a careful blend, of laziness, stupidity and poor planning – all of which are excusable in the airline industry, right?