Ever stop to think about how many hours you spend in a car every day? According to one study, Americans spend on average 46 minutes in the car every day sitting in traffic. That’s a good chunk of minutes to be wasting. Regardless of how productively you spend that time, whether you’re going over impending presentations or use it as a mental break to listen to music and daydream, switching from car to bike to get to work is all kinds of good for you.
Physical Health Benefits
We all know it: exercise is a necessity for healthy living. But we all also know how hard it can be to find time to actually exercise. But changing one habit and switching from riding in a car to pedaling on a bicycle is an easy way to squeeze in some workout time. If you’re leaving home to go to work anyway, why wouldn’t you take advantage of the situation and multitask? Commute + leg day – post-traffic 8PM workout = a way happier you.
Wait, but what about arriving to work all sweaty and having a big presentation first thing in the morning? Alright, calm down. We’re not suggesting that you ride a bike like you’re training for the Tour de France. Steady pedaling will suffice. Who knows? The breeze might even be enough to keep you cool. If you’re still nervous about it though, throw a fresh and delicately folded shirt and some deodorant into your backpack and get on your way.
Have you ever contemplated the origin of the phrase, “it’s just like riding a bike?” Well, here it is. Even if you haven’t ridden a bicycle in years, you’ll be able to get right back into it. If you’re nervous about not being in the best shape of your life, that’s okay, too! Cycling is great for improving endurance, cardiovascular fitness, joint mobility, weight control, posture, and coordination. It’s low impact, so it’s less stressful on the body, specifically the joints, than other forms of exercise, and it builds strength holistically (working against resistance and your own body weight, pushing down into the pedals, pulling and pushing off the handlebars, leaning into turns). Every part of the body is involved. But you can take it slow, don’t be afraid to ease into it. When you build up some endurance and strength, you’ll find that your daily commute is less challenging than when you began. Who knows, you might even find yourself looking forward to it!
Mental Health Benefits
Want to be in a better mood? Bicycle. Want to sleep more soundly? Bicycle. Want improved memory and concentration? Bicycle. Want to reduce stress and anxiety? Bicycle.
Physical activity benefits your mental health like nobody’s business. Cycling to work gives you the opportunity to appreciate the environment around you. Soak up the benefits of being outside. Fresh air, vitamin D, and feel good brain chemicals (like serotonin and dopamine) improve your mood. Being in the sun also helps to put your body back in line with its natural circadian rhythms, which promotes deep sleep. And deep sleep allows your brain to clean out plaque buildup. Who wouldn’t benefit from a tidier brain?
Cycling gets the blood flowing, which helps to create new brain cells as well as improve communication and functionality of existing brain cells. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, a mere 30 minutes of cycling at moderate intensity can improve cognitive capabilities, including memory, reasoning, and planning. Cycling can also put your mind at ease. Studies have found decreased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression in people who exercise at least a little. Simply put, cycling helps to get your happy on!
Trading in your morning drive for a morning bike ride is not only healthier for you physically and mentally, but also ecologically. While you’re breathing in fresh air and absorbing warm sun, you’re reducing your carbon footprint and the international astronomical over-consumption of oil.
According to another study by Texas A&M, individual commuters wasted an average of 19 gallons of fuel in 2014, which came out to approximately $960 per commuter. Even hybrid cars require a good amount of gas, indispensable batteries, and sometimes electricity to recharge. It goes without saying (but we’re going to say it anyway): bikes use no fuel.
Bikes are significantly less expensive to purchase and maintain. Bikes require less energy to manufacture. Bikes don’t require toxic batteries. The League of American Bicyclists estimated the annual cost of biking to work at $308 compared to a cost of $10,907 for driving to work. The disparity between these two costs is important to note!
Make the Switch
If you live in a large metropolitan area and spend hours stuck in traffic every day, think about the positive impact you can make on your own life by switching out your car for your bike a few days per week! Reduced stress and toned muscles are only two solid benefits you’ll experience.
Remember to begin slowly. Ease into it. After one month of commuting on a bike, examine any benefits and changes you’ve noticed. Then keep on keeping on.