Guest Post By: Pablo Monsivais, Ph.D., MPH
Associate Professor – Nutrition and Exercise Physiology
What one thing can lighten your body, lighten your mood, and lighten your impact on the environment? Biking to work!
People bike for fun and exercise, but did you know that commuting to work by bike could be good for your health and the environment?
Research has long confirmed that people who ride a bicycle to work tend to be healthier and slimmer than people who drive to work. That probably comes as no surprise to you. After all, cycling even a modest distance at a leisurely pace burns calories. For example, a 180-pound person cycling for 30 minutes at 10-12 miles per hour (an easy pace) burns over 240 calories.
But more recent research studies have focused on people who change commuting modes– for example, switching from commuting by car to “active commuting”, including walking and commuting by bicycle. These studies show that people who switch from driving to biking are better able to maintain a healthy weight over time compared to people who drive. This health benefit also seems to help prevent type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This might be because active commuting helps us burn more calories. But regular physical activity also helps build and maintain lean body mass, which can improve our metabolism even when we’re not moving.
More recent research has found that biking to work can also benefit mental health. For example, switching from exclusive car commuting to biking to work is linked to reduced depression-related symptoms and improved overall psychological well-being.
On top of these benefits to well-being, hopping out of your car and onto your bike reduces your contribution to climate-changing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which are produced by gas and diesel engines. The transportation sector, particularly the use of private automobiles, is the single leading source of greenhouse gases in the USA. Swapping your car commute for a bike commute will substantially reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention save gas money and wear-and-tear on your vehicle.
To encourage members of our campus community to give it a try, CommuteSmartNorthwest is partnering with the Wellness Collaborative on a Bike Everywhere Month initiative. First, we have a cadre of experienced bicycle commuters on our campus who have volunteered to serve as Bike Buddies. A Bike Buddy can give you advice and support, take a look at your bike, and help you find a safe and convenient way to get from your neighborhood to campus. Second, we’ll be having a campus-wide bike challenge during the month of May, to see which units on the Spokane campus log the greatest number of bike commutes and the biggest increase in bike commuting. There will be prizes for winners.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. In fact, for Spokane residents with typical commute patterns, commuting by bike just three days a week would let you achieve government physical activity recommendations for the whole week! Biking to work is the perfect two-for-one deal: Good for the planet and good for your physical and mental health! Dust off your bike, pump up the tires, and take a test ride. If you want to connect with a Bike Buddy, please e-mail me and I will hook you up.
Below are some further links that you might find useful if you’re new to bike commuting or are coming back to it after some time:
- Interactive map of bicycle routes in Spokane: https://srtc.maps.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=a9c8901a015b4aea8c5e23a927a7fc41#!
- Spokane area city and trail maps: http://spokanebicycleclub.org/Maps
Sign up today for the Commute Smart Northwest: https://commutesmartnw.org/