Biking to work

Commuting with a bike is a fun and healthy life choice

160519_CAR_BiketoWork

Going to the gym or a sports facility costs time and money. Many commit to the investment, others don’t have the time or the discipline. For the latter, it is only weeks, months or years later they realize the poor health choice.

An alternative is to include a fitness activity in your daily routine. This can be cooking, cleaning up, gardening or playing daily outside with kids. It can be also walking or cycling to work.

Walking with a combination of public transport is accessible and involves little preparation to the daily routine. It is a nice way to be a bit more active.

Cycling to work can bring even more benefits. It improves your cardiovascular system, decreases risk of Type 2 diabetes, increases insulin sensitivity, helps manage body weight, helps fight depression and mood changes and reduces all-cause mortality. A Danish study showed that the 45,000 adults aged 50-65 years who regularly cycled to work or for leisure had between 11-18 percent fewer heart attacks over the course of a 20-year follow-up. The analysis indicated that some protection against heart disease was achieved with as little as 30 minutes of biking per week.

Cycling is also a low-impact activity, good for those who have knee or shin splints problems.

Daily commuting means you cannot avoid the daily cycling activity. Soon, health benefits appear.

It can be also a fun way to commute. With a Strava account, and you can challenge yourself to get a better time in your segments. Your time won’t be as good as those by dedicated professional cyclists but challenging yourself is already good fun. In a city environment with frequent red lights and stops, cycling can also become high intensity interval training. One can challenge himself to reach top speed before the next red light. This means cycling to work can become one of the cornerstone of your health strategy.

A few cities such as Paris or New York offer bike sharing platforms, making commuting with a bike accessible. Subscriptions can be even less costly than monthly commuting passes.

For those looking to commute regularly, local bike shops have second-hand refitted bikes going from $150.A second hand bike is ideal to see if you want to commit: you can then buy a nice bike in your second year. Make sure to try extensively and to discuss any discomforts. You don’t want to develop a musculoskeletal problem with a poorly fitted bike.

Here’s how you can bike to work in a few easy steps:

  • Get a bike from a friend and try to cycle to work in the next few days. Google Maps can recommend a cycling route that most cyclists take when commuting. If it’s hilly or if you are out of breath, it’s ok. Slow down. Stop for a few minutes. It will be much better next time.
  • Ride safely. A helmet is more than recommended, as well as lights. Always choose bike lanes over cycling on the main road. If there is no bike lane, slow down speed and make sure you are visible. Make sure there is a safe distance between you and cars.
  • If you are working from home, cycling every morning to fetch groceries or equivalent can be a good alternative. Otherwise, you can become quickly sedentary.
  • Ride safely. Again, this cannot be understated. It would be ironic to have a cycling accident while your goal was to improve health.
  • If you have kids, encourage them to bike to school or to see their friends in the neighborhood. It is a nice health foundation.

References:

  • G. Hu, Q. Qiao, K. Silventoinen, J. G. Eriksson, P. Jousilahti, J. Lindström, T. T. Valle, A. Nissinen, J. Tuomilehto. Occupational, commuting, and leisure-time physical activity in relation to risk for Type 2 diabetes in middle-aged Finnish men and women. Diabetologia, March 2003, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 322–329
  • P. Oja, A. Mänttäri, A. Heinonen, K. Kukkonen-Harjula, R. Laukkanen, M. Pasanen, I. Vuori. Physiological effects of walking and cycling to work. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports Volume 1, Issue 3 September 1991 . Pages 151–157
  • Is Active Commuting the Answer to Population Health? Mark Hamer, Yoichi Chida. Preventive Medicine. Volume 46, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 9–13
  • Jeroen Johan de Hartog, Hanna Boogaard, Hans Nijland and Gerard Hoek. Do the Health Benefits of Cycling Outweigh the Risks? Environmental Health Perspectives
    Vol. 118, No. 8 (AUGUST 2010), pp. 1109-1116

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