For many of us, our days pass by in relative comfort. We prefer to get from A to B in our car, most of us get our work done while sitting, and in our free time, watching TV and hanging out with friends are what we want to do most.
Recent studies show that our sedentary lifestyle is pretty harmful to our health. But we can make a big difference with just a few small changes. If we chose to ride our bike or to walk instead of drive with the car. Active transportation helps not only the environment, but also our own health.
How active transportation to work can improve our health
In a multitude of studies, we have seen that burning 955 additional kilocalories per week through movement can significantly improve our health and can lower the risk of dying. It doesn’t even matter if we expend this energy by playing sports, working out, or by everyday movement like active locomotion.
The following numbers show how simple it is to do something good for your health, with normal walking alone. If we assume normal walking speed of five kilometers per hour and a relatively level route, you would only have to walk a distance of 1.9 kilometers or 22 minutes there and back, five days a week, in order to reach this burn. For instance, this could be the way to work, the grocery store or to a friend’s house.
If you prefer to ride a bike instead of walking, it’s even easier to live longer. If we assume a comfortable average speed of 16 kilometers per hour, an 11-minute ride to work would be sufficient. Riding a bike has the added advantage of being a little more strenuous, which means that you are training your cardiovascular system at the same time.
Fit to the office
Walking is the most common and preferred form of exercise, and, in fact, it’s the easiest one to implement. You don’t need any equipment or a fitness facility, nor a car, and you don’t need to pay any membership fees. No matter how fit, thin or heavy, old or young you are, it is almost always possible for you to walk.
For older people, normal walking is sufficient to train the cardiovascular system and to increase fitness. Fit and younger people can also increase their fitness with simple walking, by going at higher speeds or in hilly terrain.
When it comes to getting to work, walking is often not feasible, because many of us simply live too far away. But many employees could definitely ride their bikes to work every day. That would almost be better than walking, because it places higher demands on our cardiovascular system. In the morning, a round of exercise in fresh air provides an extra wake-up kick. After work, riding a bike can help us unwind and leave the stress of work behind. For all of these reasons, I believe choosing an active commute to work is well worth it.
I would love to, but…
In theory, all of this sounds really great. In reality, however, we often find many reasons for why we can’t walk or bike to work. These range from bad weather, or unsafe walking and biking paths to lack of time. Some reasons are definitely valid. But many are used only as an excuse, in order to silence our own conscience.
If your commute to work is too long, you could at least get off one or two stops earlier, and walk the rest of the way. Bad weather actually doesn’t exist, only bad clothing. Our mothers already knew that. In order to be safe on your bike, you absolutely need to have a helmet and a light in the dark. And if you say that you don’t have enough time to have an active commute to work, then ask yourself how important your own health is to you.
Leaving the car behind, and having an active commute to work, the store, or a friend’s house can decidedly improve our health. This, without trying hard, and in the fresh air. So, how much active transport is happening in your life?
Shephard, R. J. (2008). Is Active Commuting the Answer to Population Health? Sports Medicine, 38(9), 751-758.