Benefits of an Active Commute

Commuting to work by bicycle or on foot has clear and measurable advantages. Many of the benefits are easy to guess. it’s a form of exercise, which helps us to maintain a healthy weight and strong heart. The exposure to daylight brings its own benefits, boosting our mood and helping some people get more sleep. I’ve written before about research showing that an extra two hours of sunlight per day can help night owls fall asleep up to an hour earlier. Getting the blood pumping before work helps some people feel more awake and better able to focus. I’ll add from personal experience that there’s no stress reliever after a bad day at work than riding hard for a few miles.

Not everyone’s office location is amenable to walking or cycling. For people working in locations with public transit, the good news is that taking the train, bus, or ferry to work can have advantages, too, as long as you walk to and from the station, stop, or port.

Researchers have put real numbers to this stuff (Al Horr et al., 2016) have. I’ll summarize a few interesting stats here and include their cited works, too:

  • Bicycle commuters take fewer sick days (citing Gordon-Larsen et al., 1992).
  • Public transit commuters walk on average 19 minutes to get to and from their stations. “Every kilometre walked reduces the risk of obesity by 5 percent, whereas the likelihood of obesity increases by 6 percent with each mile spent in the car” (Al Horr, referencing Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2012).
  • People who work in places that are near public transit tend to have a higher employee satisfaction rating than those who can’t access public transit (citing Duffy, Laing, and Crisp, 1992).

More sleep, fewer sick days, reduced obesity risks, being more satisfied with our jobs… all these results end up contributing to the ability to be productive and the capability of becoming more productive for those who aren’t already actively commuting.

We don’t always have control over the location of our workplace, but when it’s possible to get moving physically to and from work, whether part of the way or the whole way, we should take advantage of it.

References

Al Horr, Y., Arif, M., Kaushik, A., Mazroei, A., Katafygiotou, M., & Elsarrag, E. (2016). Occupant Productivity and Office Indoor Environment Quality: A Review of the Literature. Building and Environment(105) 369-389.

Duffy, F., Laing, A., & Crisp, V. (1992). The responsible workplace. Facilities (10)9-15.

Gordon-Larsen, P., Boone-Heinonen, J., Sidney, S., Sternfeld, B., Jacobs, D.R., & Lewis, C.E. (2009). Active commuting and cardiovascular disease risk: the CARDIA study, Archives of Internal Medicine(169) 1216-1223.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2012). Better Transportation Options=Healthier Lives. http://www.rwjf.org/en/library/infographics/infographic–better-transportation-options—healthier-lives.html.

Image by acme59, CC.

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