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Consider An Active Commute For Better Health

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Although it's a great way to get some extra activity, only about 17% of Americans walk or bike to work each day. Why is that number so low? Would you consider this kind of commute if you knew it could improve your overall health--regardless of your regular exercise routine? A new study shows the health benefits of an active commute.

In this study, commuters who walked or biked to work did better on treadmill tests than those who did not. The active male commuters also had healthier BMI's, cholesterol and blood pressure levels. The study interviewed over 2,000 workers about their commuting habits over the past 12 months. With American obesity rates continuing to climb, promoting active commutes to school and work should be something to consider. Previous research has shown that countries with the highest levels of walking and biking have lower levels of obesity.

So why don't more people walk and bike to work? Many of us (me included) live too far from the office to make walking or biking feasible. Lack of sidewalks or bike paths also discourages an active commute. But research has shown that when cities build bike paths and employers encourage these practices by offering showers and changing areas for their employees, the number of people biking and walking to work increases.

My family recently moved to a new neighborhood, and my daughter's school will be less than 1/2 mile away. I was excited when I discovered this, thinking about us walking to and from school each day to promote extra activity and even just for the fresh air. But I was disappointed to learn that there are not sidewalks and almost no shoulder on the side of the road. The idea of driving her 1/2 mile to and from school each day bothers me. Besides the fact that it will take me longer to get her and her brother into and out of their car seats, it would be much better for our health and the environment to walk instead of drive. But she's only 2, so maybe there's time for me to lobby for some sidewalks in our neighborhood before school begins.

Do you walk or bike to work? If not, why? Would you consider it if there were better access to the resources you needed?

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I used to bike to work 3-4 times per week. I had to give it up for logistical reasons (too far to work and covering two sites) - but I surely miss it. It felt great.

When I trained for a marathon - I took the bus to work and ran home. Report
I will consider biking when the chain gets fixed, if it's a short distance I'll bike, power walk, run, or inline skate, but for longer distances nothing beats driving. Just have to chain your bike up, and take precaution, i.e. be safe, wear a helmet, obey the traffic laws, etc. Report
I definitely would bike to work everyday if there were a safe route from my door to my office, which are only 9 miles apart. Traffic and lack of bike paths and sidewalks on my side of town are a problem, but I live in a city that is bike friendly and is progressing nicely at building bike paths--just not in my area. As it stands now, I sometimes put the bike in the car, drive to a safe spot, and commute in from there on bike, but I end up driving almost as far as I would to work, so, while it's great physical exercise, it's not so helpful to the environment or traffic patterns! Report
I've been thinking about biking to work for a few years now. It's 7 miles each way but I could bike in the morning when it's still cool out and I have more energy and then but the bike on the bus and take the bus home when I'm tired after a long day. It's bike path/lane most of the way. I'll have to work up to it but I think it would take about an hour. Report
I've been thinking about biking to work for a few years now. It's 7 miles each way but I could bike in the morning when it's still cool out and I have more energy and then but the bike on the bus and take the bus home when I'm tired after a long day. It's bike path/lane most of the way. I'll have to work up to it but I think it would take about an hour. Report
i live close to my office and grocery store and don't own a car. so, when it's nice (not snowing or raining or freezing), I bike to work everday, it is about 2 miles one way. so, it takes less than 15 minutes. in the winter, i ride the bus, which requires me to walk to and from the stops. commuting by bike definitely keeps me in shape and i can really tell i've put on weight since winter started from not riding everyday. Report
We live two miles from our kids' school, and we try to walk at least one way everyday. They need it, and it helps me get in a little more exercise, although I haven't gotten the courage to do it more than once a day! Report
I've checked, it would take me 4 hours to bike EACH way, and I only work part time. Not a good choice at this time, hopefully in the future as I would love the opportunity to incorporate workouts into my commute! Report
I chose where I lived so I could ride my bike to work if I wanted. Having grown up on a bike and bicycle commuting, I am comfortable riding in traffic lanes where there are no bicycle paths. However, I am unable to commute usually because my job often requires me to drive off-site and I have to take my car for that :-/ Report
I love cycling!!! I have been cycling for the past three years mostly for pleasure and just recently encouraged a small group at my school to participate in "Ride your Bike to Work." This will be my 3rd week that I ride my bike to and from work and have put at least 180 miles thus far. Not only does it save gas money, but I am getting a great workout, especially on these windy days that we have had lately where I live. I try to participate in fundraising tours at least once a month. It's always a challenge and lots of fun to see other cyclists out there. All I can say is to always be safe, be aware of your surroundings constantly and follow the rules of the road - I so dislike people who don't, which then gives us "rule followers" a bad rap. Report
Currently I am unemployed, so I have no job to bike or walk to and I don't have a bike, but would love to get one once my finances aren't so strapped. Many years ago, I worked at a college and lived in an apartment building that was owned by the college. I walked to and from the office all the time. I could be to the office before I could get my car defrosted in the winter. So, if I had a job that was close enough I would definitely, walk or bike (once I got a bike).

With the price of gasoline I have even considered using my future bike to run some errands. Why not use my fat stores instead of the oil companies' reserves. Personally I think America needs to spend some time in promoting walking and biking as an alternate form of transportation rather than spending all the effort and money trying to develop new fuel sources. Americans are definitely in too much of a hurry to get everywhere. Report
I am now retired but would never consider biking or walking to & from work. I worked 13 miles from home and the work hours were 11 PM to 7 AM or 7 PM to 7 AM. this certainly is not a time to be without normal transportation. Report
I have bicycled to work during the summer for a few years now. My bike commute is 6.5 miles each way, takes me 45 minutes, and if I take it slow, I don't get too sweaty. It takes about 15 mintues to change and put myself together once I get to work, but I ride along the bike trail and it's beautiful. Today I saw 1 little brown rabbit, multiple ducks and geese, 1 family with ducklings and an eagle. Much better than listening to the stressful news while sitting behind a bus inhaling diesel fumes! Report
I have thought about it.. to get to work is all downhill, and to get to home it's all uphill.. so IDK!??? Report
I'm considering it. I live a little over a mile away from my work. There are bike paths too. I haven't figured out how to get to work and not look all sweaty and frazzled even if I take it slow and easy. Report
I ride in the summer for summer school classes. I don't have to transport as much that time of year. Also tooooooo cold and snowy this time of year. Could be very dangerous on the icey roads at night especially. I do not work in the best neighborhood either and reg. school year often don't get out until 5 o'clock which is dark in the winter here. I enjoy doing it in the summer though unless it is super humid, then asthma kicks in and prevents me from riding. Report
I walk or bike to work everyday because it is only a few blocks. It would take longer to warm up the car than that. My only problem has been when I have to take something with me to my job but I have learned that a cloth handled bag works great. When I drove to work, I made it a practice to park in the fartherest parking spot there was. Not only do you get excercise, you don't have to fight anyone else for the spot. Report
I would love to bike to work the problem however is the commute itself, I live in one town and my son goes to school in another and I have to drive him and then head in from the school so it doesn't work.....if I were to get him a ride and then bike it would probably take me a couple of hours by bike...LOL! Report
I biked to work once since I moved to Los Angeles. I risked my life and will never do it again. It's way too dangerous (thanks to reckless drivers), the pollution is insane, and I get to work stressed out, dirty and upset. I'd rather go to the gym, at least I don't run the risk of being killed by a car or bus in spinning class and can concentrate on pedaling. Report
I would love to bike or walk to work if it was close enough, but if I were to bike I would need a shower at my job. Report
I have been biking, jogging or walking to work (2 miles) for the past three years. I also walk to my kids school which is about a mile away. Combining commuting and exercising is a way of life for me, but I started for pro-environment, anti-war reasons. I was appalled by the Iraq war, and wanted to do something so I chose to give up my car.

The health benefit was just an added bonus!

-- Hilary Report
I ride my bike to classes each day (only about 3 miles), and on the days I don't, I love to ride one of our Greenway Trails to the very last trailhead and back (on either trail, usually a journey of 15+ miles). It helps with chronic pain, helps a bit with depression, boosts energy, and all the rest. Report
My daily commute to my inner city downtown workplace used to be 1 hour with horrible/stressful traffic. I've now switched to riding the city bus from the county line to downtown (cincinnati, oh) and then walking the last 20 minutes to my office. I wasn't sure if I would be able to keep this up, but I've been doing so for over two months now. I've learned how to time my walks to meet the bus and still get in a brisk walk twice a day. I'm feeling great about my daily commutes, am less stressed in the evenings when I arrive home, and have saved $8.75/day in parking garage fees! Report
I have started riding my bike to and from school. It takes me a half hour in each direction, and I found I really enjoy it. Plus it guarantees me a daily workout, no matter how busy I am! My community is a bit conflicted -- it's a college town with plenty of people riding around on bikes, and yet when my university started lobbying for more bike paths along roads, comments from the community included stuff like, "This isn't Europe and we don't need to apologize for that!" Seriously. I wish every town were more bike and pedestrian friendly. Sidewalks for all! Report
I would consider it if I was much fitter. I usually speak to a women at the bus stop in the winter time who cycles into work during the summer (lighter nights) so it is a possibility. Also one of the guys I work with tried it a couple of time said it took him an hour and a half (we live roughly the same area) and he is way healthier than me. You never know maybe in a 6 months time I'll be chugging along to work :0) Report
I ride my bike to work every day. It is great exercise and is really helping me with my weight loss goal. I live in a very bike-friendly city, so there are many different routes I can take to give me some variety in my rides. Some days I ride as little as 2.5 miles each way, or if I have time I can ride 6 miles, or 9 miles, or even more. Report
thought its 12 km from home to work, if have some time i go to work by bike. Report
I am a teacher, and for 3 years I have been commuting to work on a bike path. I live about 3.5 miles from school and have one of those little folding bikes that works wonderfully well in the city. I primarily started because it is fast and I love the feeling it gives me after a stressful day. This summer, I am ramping up my ride for the first time in, well, forever! I hope to ride in a fund raiser this fall. Report
I biked 8 miles to work my last 5 years of working until I was laid off. Taking it a little slower on the way to kept me from breaking in to a bad sweat. This was through suburban neighborhoods and country roads. There was always at least one rude driver on the way but the majority of drivers were patient. Now that I am 'retired' I bike with a commuting group on Tues and Thurs half way to downtown. Then the 'retireds' or work at homers ride back. We log about 22 miles. It is amazing how many of the over 50 folks I bike with have been laid off from work yet we still ride together and gather for a 15 min coffee. It really does help to have someone to bike commute with. Report
Using the bikepath, I'm 10.5 miles to work or, by road, it's 7.5 miles. I bike when I can (when don't need to run errands during the day or am not hauling files and laptop from home). I don't let not having a shower at work stop me from bike commuting. I have some toiletries, washcoth & towel at work and use the washroom sink. A shower would be lovely but its not a deal breaker. Bike commuting is a great way to begin the day. I find at the end of the day, I do not feel like riding home, but my attitude changes along the way home. Report
I would love to ride my bike to work; but the roads are dangerous during rush hour and there are no showers at work. To be honest, if I could shower, I would attempt the busy roads. Alternatives roads or flex hours that would make the ride safer. Report
Yes I do, sometimes. It depends on the weather. If it's raining really hard or extremely hot of course I don't. Also, if it's really late at night, like 11 p.m/midnight when I get off I don't walk unless I absolutely have to. I only live about 5-6 blocks from work depending on which way I take. Report
I would absolutely love to bike to work. My work even has lockers and showers and also assign a locker to the bike-to-workers so they don't have to clear out their stuff at the end of the day every time. But I live 40 miles north of work and the only way to get from where I live to work is on a very very fast freeway (lots of trucks, hills, and the average speed of traffic is 80 miles an hour). So that's impossible for me. I do try to run from work when I can and take advantage of the locker rooms that way. It's a nice way to break up my day and then not have to workout that night after putting the kids to bed. Report
Thank you for this topic! I've been thinking about biking to my new job but have felt nervous about it...will I get hit? mugged? be smelly and sweaty? After reading this article, I bit the bullet, bought a lock, printed a google map (only 12kms each way) and had the most amazing ride of my life. I found ravine and river valley trails almost all the way to work, so avoided traffic altogether. Yes, I was sweaty but I liked someone's idea of wetwipes and other hygiene items. I packed those and rigged my saddlebag into a makeshift garment bag for my suit, and had the most gorgeous, most peaceful ride ever. What a great way to start the day! The ride home in sweltering heat was really sweaty but still fantastic, and an excellent way to end the day. Thank you! Report
Besides the fact that this is not a bike friendly city, just the thought of sweating so much before getting to work & smelling like that all day freaks me out. If I didn't live in such a hot & humid area where it rains most days, I'd think about it. Right now it is 7:14 am & we already have 98% humidity. Report
For the last five years I have biked to work in the summer and walk in the winter. Rain or shine. I live in a small community which makes it easier for me to do this. Report
I used to bike for my commute when I lived inside the city. Loved it and the lifesytle. Then I moved to the USA, to the suburbs outside of the "beltway". Low and behold, no easy access to bike paths, or bike friendly motorists.

I was appalled that you couldn't even walk, Let alone bike anywhere in the outer suburbs. No wonder why I gained 25 pounds that stubbornly would not give way.

Now my commute is my basement where I have a private pilates studio. I have to purpose to walk and bike at the gym. Should I ever move back to the metro, I'd begin commuting without a second thought! Report
Also in my community, lots of people drop their kids off at school or daycare by bike. The little ones ride in child seats or trailers and the older ones ride trail-a-bikes or their own bikes. It can be done if residents demand it. It's much easier to sit in your car and complain of course, but this is your life. Report
It's absolutely criminal that there are schools with no sidewalks. More kids are hit by cars, more kids are obese, more kids have asthma from all those parents' cars idling before and after school! That we have allowed our country to become so car-dependent is really appalling.
I live in an area where businesses have bicycle parking and sometimes showers; where communities have "bike-pools" where kids and parents bike to school together; where public transit can get you most places, and combined with a bike almost anywhere. If your neighborhood makes it difficult or impossible for kids to get to school safely on foot or bike, demand change. If you value your childrens' health and your own future, it is essential. Report
I take my car to the park and ride and then bus to work. But on nice days, I will always get off the bus a couple of stops early and walk the rest of the way and if I have enough time I will walk to the park and ride instead of taking my car at all.
I've done the walk/bike-to-work thing, the public-transport-to-work thing and the drive-an-hour-to-work thing. I put on all the weight (about 40 pounds) during the drive-to-work times. Now that I'm back in a situation where I can walk to work (2.25 miles each way), I'm losing weight steadily. I can do the math - I'll continue to try to work in locations that let me continue walking to work. :)
I actually only live approx 1 mile from my office. It is very convenient in the fact that I started walking to work a few weeks ago. 3 days per week, I get to walk with a coworker that lives near me. The other 2 days, I put on one of my headphones and walk by myself. The added bonus, my workout buddy picks me up after work and we head to the gym for our workout Report
I take public transportation, but the bus stop is three miles from my house. I have walked it a few times before but due to a large elevation change over that three miles, it is really difficult to make time for every day.
My problems with biking are these.
1) I am scared. I have watched bikers on these same roads get hit by cars. I feel like I need some kind of safety lesson first.
2) Where do I put the bike at work?
3) How much would a used bike cost to get started? The new ones that fold up to solve the where to put the bike at work question are really expensive. Report
I remember an immediate weight gain when as a teenager, our family moved and I rode a bus to school instead of walking. Every weight gain since then has been due to lifestyle changes that caused me to be less active.

I'm making myself walk almost daily now and am seeing positive results. Report
I didn't even own a car until I was 24; prior to that I walked or cycled to work. Even after getting my 1st car I cycled to work at least part time. My longest commute was 18 miles each way; I worked in a bicycle shop and we had a shower so I could rinse off before seeing customers. The shower didn't have hot water so I only used it in the Summer though!

At one time I only lived 5 miles from work but couldn't cycle. Every route had busy roads with aggressive drivers, narrow lanes and no shoulders. This was very frustrating to me since I would have much prefered to bike to work; at least when the weather was nice. Report
`I used to live 13 miles from my work. There was only a small portion of the ride over a bridge that was a bit treacherous, but other than that I could easily take back roads and enjoy my commute in. i took it easy (only 8 or 9 mph on a mountain bike) on the ride in. We have a gym in the lobby of our building. I would bring my clothes for the week and keep them in my office(full business suit atire here). Then I would shower down stairs, change and be fine all day.
The ride home I would crank a 15mph pace and really hussle all the way home.

Unfortunately I have moved to about 26 miles away from my work. I still have a mountain bike/stree bike hybrid, so that would be excessive. I have thought about parking my car about 10 miles out and then biking the difference. I would still be taking 20 miles off the commute and that ride in would be great for my health.
I live pretty close to work and would love to be able to walk everyday, however i often need my vehicle for my job and therefore am unable to walk. Report
I walk or bike to work (or take a bus when the weather is bad). I transport a laptop, wallet, lunch, sometimes library books (it's on the route). The proper bag makes a big difference.

I know it's not possible for everyone, but if people made proximity to work, school, or shopping a priority when looking for housing, it could make a big difference. Over a decade ago we made a conscious decision to move 25 miles closer to work - the house cost more but our quality of life improved dramatically (plus we saved boatloads of money by not driving so much, including lower auto insurance costs).

For those who think you can't bike with kids, you can! You could pull them in a trailer if they're really little, or use a co-pilot when they are older but not able to bike solo. We did that when ours were in preschool (not every day, but it is possible). It just has to be a priority. And yes, lobby the government for safer options (sidewalks, bike lanes, etc). If we lived in a neighborhood without sidewalks, I'd be walking on people's lawns to get to that school... Report
I do not work. ok- a stay at home mom. I do ride my bike around the near by lake.5-6 times a week for a total of 60- 80 miles a week. I love it. the bike path is great and i'm able to listen to books on tape to pass the time while I ride. a great de-stresser Report
I don't work but I keep my 5 year old grandson. I pick him up from school during the school year. His school is about 2 miles from my house. If there were sidewalks, I would definitely walk to pick him up. He would enjoy the walk also. Report
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