The Salubrious Commute: How Pedaling Can Save Your Life
The title of this article is a bold proclamation: commuting to work on a bicycle can actually save your life. When we talk about bicycle advocacy issues, we very often discuss safety issues for cyclists and infrastructure shortcomings for cities, but some of the most important and rewarding aspects of using a bicycle for transportation are the health benefits that utility cycling offers.
Using a bike for transportation, even if only for short trips, adds an estimated three to 14 months to the average lifespan of the cyclist, according to a study conducted at the University of Utrecht. Adding time to a bicycle commuter’s life expectancy sounds a bit abstract, so I’ll be more specific.
Obesity is a health concern in the United States and in many other developed countries around the world, both in children and in adults. In America, nearly a third of the population is obese, and this percentage is steadily rising. Obese people have increased risks of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and many other life-altering and life-threatening diseases. In addition to making changes in one’s diet, increasing one’s physical activity is a big step in the right direction in reducing an individual’s risk of becoming obese and encountering these many related health issues.
Riding a bike at a moderate pace for an hour burns approximately 500 calories (more or less depending on your height, weight, sex, etc.). If your commute takes about 30 minutes in each direction and you commit to riding just three days per week, you will have burned 6,000 calories after one month of bike commuting. Keep it up for 50 weeks in a year and you will have burned 75,000 calories after one year of bike commuting. A pound of weight is equal to 3,500 calories, so that’s more than 21 pounds worth of calories expended without ever stepping foot in a gym. According to 1 World, 2 Wheels, the average commuter loses 13 pounds in his or her first year of commuting, and the net loss from commuting translates to a net gain in health benefits.
Riding for transportation purposes can also improve your mood. Exercise is often cited as an effective way to combat feelings of depression and anxiety, as physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins, an all-natural, feel-good chemical. Using a pedal-powered machine to get from home to work or from the grocery store to home has the same effect on the body’s endorphin production as an equal amount of time spent on a treadmill, and avoiding rush hour traffic in an automobile is an added bonus to this stress-relieving method of transportation.
And that’s not all. New studies are published on a regular basis revealing that physical activity helps to lower people’s risk for strokes and many types of cancer and increases bone, muscle and joint health. Utility cycling is all about being efficient, environmentally conscious and socially responsible. Utility cycling is goal-oriented cycling. Strengthening your lungs, heart, muscles and spirit while you commute to work and run errands is an amazingly useful benefit of utility cycling.