Taiwan's motorcycle waterfall spectacle poses health risks

(This report is provided by Dr. Yung Liao’s research team in the Graduate Institute of Sport, Leisure and Hospitality Management)

Motorcycles are the most common mode of transportation in Taiwan, as they are convenient and can quickly reach their destination, saving a great deal of commuting time, but is riding a motorcycle related to people's healthy lifestyle habits? Or is it related to increasing the risk of obesity? The research team of Professor Liao in the Department of Health Promotion and Health Education at National Taiwan Normal University conducted a series of analyses and discussions on this topic. The research team measured motorcycle use behavior among more than 1,000 Taiwanese adults and explored their association with healthy lifestyle habits and obesity risk. The first findings showed that “high motorcycle users” (more than 280 minutes per week) had a 1.5-fold increase in obesity risk compared with 'non-motorcycle users.' The second study found that Taiwanese adults who ride more than 30 minutes a day on motorcycles replace more traffic-related physical activity (such as walking and cycling). Based on the results of this study, it is suggested that health promotion programs need to be designed specifically for the motorcycle population in the future.

Motorcycles are a common mode of transportation in Asia. Evidence suggests that riding a motorcycle can cause many negative health effects, such as higher rates of accidental injury, easier exposure to air pollution, and reduced opportunities for many dynamic behaviors. However, half of adults use motorcycles (49.6%) as their main mode of transportation in Taiwan, and the motorcycle ownership rate is among the highest in the world. There are only limited studies in Taiwan exploring issues related to motorcycle use behavior.

In 2014, using Australians as participants, an article about 'driving time' and 'health' pointed out that 'long-term driving behavior' is associated with smoking behavior, insufficient physical activity and shorter sleep duration, as well as poorer physical and mental health [1]. Accordingly, is 'riding a motorcycle' related to the healthy living habits of Taiwanese people? Does it increase the risk of obesity? Professor Liao’s research team investigated the motorcycle use behavior (frequency and time) of more than 1,000 Taiwanese adults, and examined the association of this behavior with healthy lifestyle habits and obesity risk.

In 2017, the research team first analyzed the correlation between 'motorcycle use behavior' and 'obesity risk' of Taiwanese adults. After controlling for all interference factors, it was found that the 'high use motorcycle group” (more than 280 minutes per week) showed a 1.5-fold risk of obesity compared with the 'no motorcycle use” (0 minutes) group. A possible explanation for this is that riding a motorcycle may cover long periods of low-energy consumption behavior and replace many opportunities for daily physical activity, which in turn increases the risk of obesity [2].

The second study further explored the correlation between 'motorcycle use behavior' and 'lifestyle factors' in Taiwanese adults. The results found that Taiwanese adults who ride motorcycles for more than 30 minutes a day will indeed replace more transportation-related physical activities (such as walking and cycling) [3]. Based on the results of this series of studies, it is recommended that the public sector and relevant units need to design health promotion programs specifically for motorcycle communities in the future to reduce their health risks.

1. Ding, D., Gebel, K., Phongsavan, P., et al., 2014. Driving: a road to unhealthy lifestyles and poor health outcomes. PLoS One 9 (6) e94602.

2. Lin CY, Liao Y*, Park JH*. Association of Motorcycle Use with Risk of Overweight in Taiwanese Urban Adults. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2017, 14(4) pii: E410.

3. Liao Y, Lin CY*, Park JH*. Is motorcycle use associated with unhealthy lifestyles? Findings from Taiwan. Journal of Transport and Health. 2019, 15, 100659.

Yung Liao Distinguished Professor | Graduate Institute of Sport, Leisure and Hospitality Management

Dr. Liao is a Distinguished Professor in the Graduate Institute of Sport, Leisure and Hospitality Management, National Taiwan Normal University. Professor Liao's research is based on the scientific theory of healthy behavior and the framework of behavioral epidemiology, exploring healthy behaviors such as 'physical activity,' 'static behavior,' and 'sleep' 24 hours a day. Prof. Liao has published more than 70 academic papers in the past five years (2015-2020) and has conducted several research projects for the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education.