The Salubrious Commute: How Pedaling Can Save Your Life

The Salubrious Commute: How Pedaling Can Save Your Life

Posted on 11. Jan, 2011 by in Transportation

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.

Bike Commute

Image Credit: JPChamberland

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.

Tire Tread

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.

10 Responses to “The Salubrious Commute: How Pedaling Can Save Your Life”

  1. Emily

    14. Jan, 2011

    Thanks for the article, as a cyclist, I definitely see the health benefits of my commuting.
    That said, I would like to add that it may be unreasonable for some people to use cycling as a weight loss program. I road 200 miles/month for most of this last summer and didn’t lose a pound! It was so frustrating, but then I visited my college roommate in the fall and she commented on how toned my legs looked! And its true, my calf muscles haven’t looked this good since I used to run in high school. So, I think it is important that people know there are many aspects of improving your fitness and that sometimes your body might respond by losing fat in exchange for muscle, therefore not losing weight but INCHES and improving tone.

  2. Commuterjohn

    16. Jan, 2011

    All I know is that if I reduce my cycling or leave it off during my holidays, then the inches go on and it’s harder for the first week to get back into a cycling routine.
    But once that’s over I feel so much better and the belt gets tightened up a notch or two!

    John

  3. [...] there’s more (via UtilityCycling.org): Conclusions: On average, the estimated health benefits of cycling were substantially larger than [...]

  4. Stacey Moses

    19. Jan, 2011

    Hi Emily,
    I agree that not all cyclists will see an overall drop in body weight, as weight loss is dependent upon a variety of factors. Muscle is more dense than fat, so some people may even gain a few pounds if they add more muscle than they lose in fat mass. The point is that adding 30 minutes or an hour of physical activity to your day, no matter what kind of activity it is, will help to lower your percentage of fat mass, strengthen your heart, and can lead to many other benefits that I’ve mentioned above. For most people that currently do not partake in any physical activity and find themselves gaining weight, commuting by bike can be an efficient way to add physical activity to their daily routine.

  5. dr2chase

    20. Jan, 2011

    One thing I have noticed, and I’ve had 25 years to keep noticing it over and over, is that if my knees get messed up, biking fixes them. It was never quite clear what “messed up” was, because the first time they hurt, bad enough to see a knee doctor, it was still back in the days of X-rays. He suggested that if I wanted, he could cut me open, or maybe, since biking made it feel better, I might want to keep riding my bike.

    And for me, starting at 200 miles a month was good for a rapid loss of about 15-20 pounds, and then that was it, for years. Tinkering with my diet a little in the last year knocked off another four, maybe.

  6. [...] The Salubrious Commute: How Pedaling Can Save Your Life [...]

  7. Jed

    24. Jan, 2011

    For weight loss purposes, I’ve read some bloggers comment that switching to a low glycemic index (low GI) diet improves weight loss effectively for them. There are diets out there that focus on identifying and removing the types of carbs and grains that your body doesn’t metabolize but stores as fat. I follow a low-GI diet rich with healthy fats and I’m pretty good at keeping the weight off.

  8. [...] how it works, according to Stacey Moses of UtilityCycling.org: “Riding a bike at a moderate pace for an hour burns approximately 500 calories (more or less [...]

  9. [...] like the message of this graphic. It’s a comprehensive summary in graphic form of some of the benefits of cycling with info on how some places have made it happen. In summary I think they earned their link but [...]

  10. [...] Be less fat. Yeah I said it. Burn 10,000 calories a month with a 30 minute commute, 5 days a [...]

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