Health Benefits of Cycling to Work (and Tips to Make It Work For You)
Commuting makes me feel what I imagine our commercially-raised chicken and beef experience: trapped, anxious and stressed. Now, imagine heading into work like this: the sun is warming your face, the wind is blowing through your hair, your legs are pumping, you can feel the blood and oxygen circulating your entire body, the sounds of nature surround you and you’re loving every minute of it…
PsychologyToday.com reports that commuting is “the stress that doesn’t pay.” Chances are, based on your own personal experience, you’ll have felt the negative effects of commuting, whether you’re driving and behind the wheel or using public transit.
How about another option? The health benefits of cycling to work are so wide-spread for your entire well-being, it’s worth discussing as a viable solution to your commuter woes. Below we’ll discuss the health benefits of cycling to work, PLUS some creative ideas in how to make it work for your particular situation.
(As personal trainers who design individualized workouts for clients, we understand and respect the importance of personalization.)
Benefits of Cycling to Work
An effective stress-management tool
If you’re like most people today, a typical work day for you includes many hours sitting at a desk with too much to do and not enough time to do it in.
Choosing your bicycle as a means of transportation over a motorized vehicle is the ideal opportunity to make good use of your commuting time!
You ultimately de-stress before and after you get stressed; plus you’re combating the negative physical effects of hours of inactivity with being active before and after, as well.
- Any activity releases endorphins, you know, those happy neurotransmitters? They act on our receptors, lowering our perception of pain (similar to a morphine shot!) and this function is described as the natural “defensive response of an organism to stress.” It’s our body’s stress relief tool!
- Being in nature is always calming, while being stuck in traffic or cooped up in a bus or streetcar is the exact opposite.
- On the safe parts of the bicycle path while always being aware of your surroundings, you can take the time to meditate. Both nature and repetition (like pumping your legs) are good meditation tools. As our tagline (Train your Mind to Train your Body) suggests, we believe in mental training to get the best physical results.
- Double the efficiency of your cycling commute time and make it into a workout! Challenge yourself in different ways by using different muscles, gears, speed and terrain. For instance, don’t sit on your seat between lights; or take the most hilly route at least once or twice a week.
- Cycling will make you more limber, but don’t forget to stretch when your muscles are warm! Before, if you can, and definitely after. Focus on stretching your quads, hips and, to counteract the rounded position over the handlebar, chest muscles.
Tips for Making Cycling to Work Work For You
What’s stopping you? Is it the distance? Do you think cycling to work will increase your commute time? Is it the idea that you’ll get to work and be all sweaty? Or maybe you’re concerned about the noxious fumes from automobile traffic if the bike path is close to, or on, the road?
Here are some ideas in how to handle these challenges:
Long Distance Solution(s): if you live too far out of the city, try commuting part of the way before hoping on your bike. If you drive, get a bike rack, decide the distance you want to bike, find a parking lot and plan a route. If you take public transit, find a bicycle station mid-route to park your bike during the week. In the beginning, you’ll have to spend some time planning and giving yourself extra commute time as you work out all the details, but once you have everything in place, it’ll be smooth sailing.
Increased Commute Time Solution: are you positive cycling will increase your commute time (once you get it figured out)? Depending on the time of day and your usual route, maybe you’ll actually get to work even faster by finding alternative bike routes and taking short-cuts. It’s worth taking a look at – it could save you from sitting in your car in bumper-to-bumper traffic!
Arriving to Work Sweaty Solution: pack a bag with your work clothes, towel, deodorant, wet naps, makeup (basically, the essentials) and fix yourself up in the restroom at work before the workday. If this just isn’t possible, find a near-by gym where you can freshen up and change, as well as store your gear until you’re ready for the commute home.
Noxious Fumes Solution: simple – buy a mask. Sure you might look a bit unusual and it might be hot in mid-summer, but you’ll be protecting your lungs!
“All this sounds costly” Solution: really? When you factor in the cost of gas these days, plus the wear-and-tear on your car… well, to be sure, you can always do a cost analysis. Again, if you can’t intuitively see a way of making cycling to work a reality, there will probably be an extensive planning stage. But based on the possible benefits to your well-being, perhaps a little time investment might be worth it in the end!
Did this article entice you to search for ways you can cycle to work? Have you already found some and wish to share them here for other readers?
If you like this article and would like to benefit from finding additional ways to increase your activity, we can help. As personal trainers, we’re here to provide you guidance in every possible way towards improved health and fitness. Contact us for a complimentary consultation session.