A Bonus Of Riding SunRail: Losing Weight

The SunRail commuter train has been credited with spurring more than $1 billion worth of development and taking thousands of cars off the road each weekday.

But some folks are reporting another benefit: losing weight.

Michelle Thompson, a 52-year-old bookkeeper, said she has lost more than 45 pounds since last November because she started walking to and from SunRail stations in Lake Mary and Winter Park.

And Robert Bowden, 63, who runs Orlando’s Leu Gardens, said he has dropped 38 pounds during the past year walking to and from the Florida Hospital stop and his job.

“If I can do this,” Thompson said, “anybody can.”

Said Bowden, “It’s a great way to start the day.”

Apparently, they are not alone.

SunRail officials have not surveyed regular riders about exercise that could be linked to the train, but they maintain it is not uncommon to hear passengers saying the same things as Thompson and Bowden.

In fact, before the train started accepting fares on May 1, 2014, train supporters said chances were good that SunRail would spur more walking and bike riding. Records show the train typically carries more than 200 bikes each workday.

“It’s really pretty cool,” SunRail spokesman Steve Olsen said of the weight-loss accounts.

Thompson said she started riding SunRail in November after moving to Lake Mary with her 28-year-old daughter. Shortly after settling in, Thompson said her 2004 Jeep Cherokee broke down and was not worth repairing. So, instead of going into debt to buy a new car, she decided to walk the 3 miles to the station.

“I wanted to invest in myself. It’s the biggest investment I’ve made in my life,” said Thompson, who weighed 240 pounds seven months ago and now is down to 194 pounds.

Bowden would not reveal how much he weighs, but said losing weight was not his main goal. He likes the fact that he is not driving his car as much as before SunRail, reducing his so-called carbon footprint.

“This is my own personal way I can make a change and help the environment,” said Bowden, who lives in Longwood.

Besides the exercise and ecological benefits of walking, Bowden said, he also enjoys visiting with people who live along his 1.5-mile route to and from the station. Normally a 25-minute walk, he said, the stroll can last much longer if he stops and talks.

Thompson said she spends about 40 minutes getting from the Lake Mary station to her home. Her daughter, Thompson said, drops her off at the station in the morning.

The biggest drawback of their near-daily jaunts, Thompson and Bowden said, is walking in the evening heat.

Thompson said she changes into shorts and tennis shoes when she leaves her job at the Alfond Inn in Winter Park, but still perspires heavily. “I’m drenched,” she said.

Bowden typically brings along an extra shirt in his backpack so he has something dry to wear in the air-conditioned SunRail cars.
Both said they enjoy the train.

“I love the convenience,” Thompson said. “It’s a fast way to travel. Cost-wise, I think it’s great.”

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By Dan TracyOrlando Sentinel 
8:58 PM EDT, June 7, 2015