Almost half of Americans don’t meet the CDC’s physical activity guidelines, which recommend two and a half hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity weekly. In fact, 60 percent of us are overweight or obese. But despite working sedentary desk jobs, many workers easily reach the recommended activity goal on their daily bicycle commutes.
According a recent report from the Census bureau, the national average commute time is just under half an hour. A 150-pound bicycle commuter burns about 550 calories an hour at a moderate speed (about 12-14 miles per hour). That means in a 30-minute bike commute, you can expect to burn nearly 275 calories before checking email at your desk! And if you commute five days a week, you’ve met the CDC’s recommended goal of two and a half hours of activity.
Health Benefits of Bicycle Commuting
While biking to and from work five days a week is great for physical health, it can also do wonders for your mental health. Exercise boosts metabolism and increases blood flow, which can help with concentration. And with one in four American adults suffering from a mental health issue in a given year, finding ways to deal with stress is vital. Bicycling home after a long day at work is a great way to decrease stress. Additional health benefits include lowering cardiovascular risk and building lean muscle. Beyond benefiting body and mind, biking is also good for your wallet, the environment, and the community. Bicycle commuters save money on gas and bus fare, and decrease their carbon footprints.
New Bikers: Getting Started
Beginner bicycle commuters can ease into the habit by taking part in National Bicycle to Work Day on May 17th. It doesn’t take much to get started. In fact, all you need are these items:
- A bicycle
- A helmet
- A bicycle lock
- A front and back bike light if you’re going to ride in the dark
A carbon-fiber road bike isn’t necessary; any bicycle with a proper tune-up will do the trick for a beginner. Bicycle tune-ups ensure that your brakes and gears are working. After a tune-up, put on your helmet, grab your lock, and pack your lights for the commute home, because you’re ready to plan your route.
If you prefer going old school, buy a road bicycle road map to tuck in your pocket as you ride. Road bike maps typically show elevation, so you can plan a route with or without hills. With your smartphone, you can also search for cyclist routes on Google Maps or download an app such as Ride the City, which will route paths for you in 27 major cities.
Know Before You Go
Get to know your bike before you start riding. Are your tires and seat quick-release? If you don’t know, ask the mechanic during your tune-up. At most bicycle shops, you can buy a lock to prevent your seat or wheels from being stolen if you park your bike on the street. Many office buildings in major cities allow bicycles to be parked inside. Check with your building and office prior to your first ride to ensure that space is available. When parking on the street in public places, have a solid lock and remove any quick-release parts.
The benefits of bicycle commuting are well worth the initial investment and planning. Regular riding may even have you looking forward to your morning commute. Happy riding!
For more information about riding to work in your city, check out the following resources:
Bicycle Commute Calculator. http://www.youcanbikethere.com/bike-commute-calculator
Center for Disease Control. Facts about Physical Activity Guidelines.
Davis, R., and Turner, L. (2001) A review of current weight management: research and recommendations. Journal of American Academy of Nurse Practicioners, Jan, 13 (1), 15-9. PMID: 11930391. Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11930391
Kortmann, T., and Schumacher, G. (2013). [Physical activity in obesity and overweight]. Ther Umsch, Feb, 70 (2), 113-7. Doi: 10.1024/0040-5930/a000375. Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23385190
Marcus, R (2013, March 5, 11:38am). San Francisco Bay Area: Nation’s Capital for ‘Megacommuting’. KQED’s Bay Area news blog. Link: http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2013/03/05/san-francisco-bay-area-nations-capital-for-megacommuting/
National Institute of Mental Health. The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml#Anxiety
Piziak, VK. (1987) Management of obesity. Comprehensive Therapy, Jan, 13 (1), 7-12. PMID:3802754. Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3802754#
United States Census Bureau. Megacommuters: 600,00 in U.S. Travel 90 minutes and 50 miles to Work, and 10.8 Million Travel an Hour Each Way, Census Bureau Reports. Released March 5, 2013. Census newsroom. http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/american_community_survey_acs/cb13-41.html