Commuting for Better Health

With our busy lives, it can be difficult to find the time required to maintain good health. It seems like there’s always something else to do, somewhere else to be… but that’s not always a bad thing! Whether it’s for work, doctor’s appointments, kids’ activities, or whatever else you may have competing for your presence, our lives our full of obligations requiring us to move from one place to another. Why not capitalize on these small journeys and make them work for you? Below are some ways to augment your commute to improve your physical and/or mental wellbeing!

 

The health benefits of a bike commute.

 

Biking

Have you tried biking to work? The heart health boost from biking is just the beginning.  According to Lisa Callahan, MD, medical director of the Women’s Sports Medical Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, “You get the same cardiovascular benefits from cycling that you get from any other form of aerobic exercise—walking, jogging or dancing. It can be a very effective cardiovascular benefit.”

Weight management is a huge benefit of biking. Several studies have found a strong correlation between bike commuting and weight loss, which makes sense when you calculate the extra calories burned at 500 per hour. One study in the UK found that people with average bike commutes of 30 minutes or more lost more than 15 pounds on average over two years.

In contrast, a study of 822 adults by the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health found that those who commute by car “gained about 3.5 pounds during the four-year study. Daily car commuters gained the most weight, while those who drove only occasionally or never drove gained smaller amounts. Daily drivers, even if they engaged in weekly exercise, gained on average 3 pounds more than non-car commuters. The only people who avoided weight gain altogether were non-car commuters who also achieved recommended levels of exercise.”

Biking to work can also reduce your stress, and we can all probably use that. Imagine the relief of missing traffic jams and not having to find parking. Not to mention the financial savings of avoiding the costs of using a car!

If you are close enough to work, walking would have similar benefits to biking. Plus it helps you slow down and enjoy the world around you.

 

The benefits of carpooling.

 

Carpooling for Calm

The major benefits from carpooling are for your mental health. The most common benefit being reduced stress from a number of factors.

  • Taking the HOV lane when it is available can cut your commute time in half. With the average person spending 40 hours a year stuck in traffic, that’s like getting two extra days back per year!
  • If you are sharing the driving duties, that’s one or more less days you have to deal with the frustration of heavy traffic.
  • You can use your commute time for work. Or even better, carve out some me time to play your favorite game, listen to an audio book, or just meditate.

Add the social benefits of making new friends and getting to know your carpool pals better. There is a lot of information out there about how socializing boosts your immune system, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and reduces stress.

 

The health benefits of public transportation.

 

Positive Public Transportation

Even public transportation has health benefits.

The nature of getting to a bus or train then getting to your destination means more activity naturally built into your day. Individuals who take public transportation get over three times the activity each day than those who don’t (taking biking and walking commuters out of the equation).

Bus transportation is safer with one-twentieth the passenger fatality rates of automobile travel.  And, the National Safety Council estimates that riding the bus is over 170 times safer than automobile travel.

Just like carpooling, public transportation leaves you time each day to do things that matter to you. Listen to some good music or a podcast. Use your time at the bus stop to be in the moment and observe the world around you. Write that novel in your head. The options are only limited by your imagination.

Finally, riding the bus increases your sense of community. It helps you slow down and observe your route. It exposes you to your neighbors and different cultures. And on a regular commute, it even has the possibilities for new friendships.

 

The benefits of a walking commute.

 

Accessible Alternatives

No matter what alternative commute you choose, the benefits of not being in a car alone are astounding. Not only can it benefit your overall health and finances, it is a tremendous boon to the environment. For instance, according to an article by South Florida Commuter Services, “if 100 people were to take advantage of the carpool option every day, more than of 1,320 pounds of carbon monoxide and 2,376,000 pounds of carbon dioxide could be removed from the air.” Imagine the impact with 1,000 people.

How can you be part of the solution? We’d love to hear your favorite alternative commuting option below.