Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Motor vehicle traffic and a Trax train travel on Main Street in March. A new study shows links between time spent in automobiles and obesity rates.

Researchers at the University of Illinois are studying the vicious cycle between obesity and car usage.

From 1985 to 2007, rates of obesity parallel automobile use at around 99 percent, according to researcher Sheldon H. Jacobson, professor of computer science and director of the simulation and optimization laboratory at Illinois. Being sedentary through drives to various places creates an inactive lifestyle, said Jacobson.

"If you look over the last 60-plus years, the automobile has become our primary mode of transportation," Jacobson said. "So much so, in fact, we have literally designed our way of life around it."

In an earlier study, Jacobson studied how extra passenger weight was contributing to higher energy use in vehicles. This study "reverse-engineers" the idea, according to the Illinois news bureau article. Jacobson said, "This then raises the question, 'Is the reverse true?' If we drive more, are we going to become heavier as a nation?"