Abstract Reliance on oil as an energy source for private transportation produces increasingly unfavorable social, political and environmental conditions including climate change, dependence on foreign oil, and the need for difficult choices between oil production and protection of biological systems. At the same time, the population is increasingly sedentary due largely to our reliance on the automobile for transportation. Adoption and maintenance of healthy weights and healthier lifestyles by substituting walking or biking for short trips currently taken by car could simultaneously improve health and reduce oil consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. We calculate the reduction in oil consumption and carbon dioxide emissions possible in the United States if (1) obese and overweight conditions were eliminated from the adult population through the use of walking or biking for transportation, and (2) individuals between the ages of 10 and 64 adopted previously recommended levels of daily exercise by walking or biking instead of driving. Substantial co-benefits accompany widespread adoption of physical activity. Assuming substitution of cycling for driving, the reduction in gasoline demand is equivalent to 34.9% of current domestic oil consumption. This constitutes considerably more oil than is recoverable from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The concomitant reduction in US carbon dioxide emissions would constitute approximately 10.9% relative to 1990 net US emissions and would be a substantial step toward satisfying the Kyoto Protocol.

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