Leaving your car at home is definitely good for your mind, but it’s even better for your body.
This past April, researchers published a new study in the British Medical Journal that’s attracted a lot of attention in the transportation demand management space. The study, which was carried out by scientists in the United Kingdom, compared the relative health benefits of four common modes of commuting: driving, public transportation, walking, and cycling. Their conclusion? Cycling is, by a significant margin, the healthiest option.
The study’s key finding is that when practiced on a daily basis, pedal power reduces an individual’s risk of dying, from any disease or cause, by an amazing 41 percent. Researchers expected that cycling would prove to be the healthiest mode of transportation, given that it is the highest-intensity commuting option included in the study. However, even these seasoned scientists were surprised to learn just how dramatically it can improve a person’s physical health.
This particular study followed over 263,000 participants between the ages of 40 and 69 over a five-year period. Its methodology included controls to correct for lifestyle factors, age disparities, socioeconomic imbalances, and other important variables. The study also included a mixed-mode option, in which active forms of commuting, such as cycling and walking, were combined with inactive transportation options, such as public transit and driving. The conclusive trend held up even in this regard, with study participants who included biking as part of a mixed-mode commuting strategy showing a 24 percent decrease in mortality risk.
So what makes biking so beneficial? Study participants who biked to work generally had longer distances to cover than those who walked, giving them a longer and more intensive regular workout.
If you’re looking to promote an alternative to solo driving, biking is a great place to start. In addition, studies have also shown that shared modes of transportation, such as carpooling and public transportation, are also associated with both mental and physical health benefits. There’s room for a complete range of options in any complete commuter management strategy.
Thinking of this from an employer’s perspective, it’s worth noting that encouraging people to commute by bike can also benefit an organization’s bottom line due to such health benefits. That means biking to work is a win-win for both commuters themselves and the companies they work for! Which is a great reason to promote cycling both during Bike to Work month and year-round.