Bike Your Way to a Healthier, Richer, Happier You

Don’t forget to enter to win an iPad 3 here at PET. 

Bicyclist Savo Ilic dreamstime Bike Your Way to a Healthier, Richer, Happier YouDid you know that 90% of Americans drive to work despite the fact that 70% of them have a commute that is less than 2 miles? Reading this statistic surprised me, even though I’m one of the 0.6% of our nation’s population that bikes to work.

What if you consider that over 37.5% of our population is classified as being obese yet a mere 1% rides a bike for commuting/running errands while in Holland only 9.3% of the population is obese and 25% bike instead of drive? Based on this comparison, it’s easy to see that the U.S. needs a transportation overhaul.

Biking Makes You Healthier

When biking to work for an entire year, the average person will lose 13 pounds (and keep it off!). By biking instead of driving, you’re also boosting your immunity which will help stave off bouts of the flu, common cold, and sinus infections. Additionally, an increase in exercise will typically cause your body to naturally crave food that is good for you. Instead of yearning for that candy bar for each afternoon’s pick-me-up, you may pleasantly be surprised to find yourself reaching for a bunch of grapes or an apple instead.

Since I began biking to work nearly every day, I have toned my muscles more, increased my cardio fitness (which also helps with my running), and I have seen a drastic reduction in the frequency of medical appointments. In fact, this past winter I didn’t have to be seen more than once for a sinus infection whereas the previous year I had been in my doctor’s office at least 4 times during cold & flu season! I can honestly say that I’m in the best shape of my life thanks in part to my daily bike commutes.

Biking Saves Money

Let’s say you currently drive to/from work each day, Monday through Friday. Given the insane gas prices we’re facing lately (plus, we’re headed into construction season which means a longer, more convoluted commute), let’s give a generous estimate that you fill your car for $55 twice a month. That’s 110 of your hard-earned dollars being funneled directly into your gas tank.  If you continued to only fill up for this amount twice per month, after a full year you’d have spent $1,320 just on gasoline alone.

Last summer, I purchased a hybrid bicycle for less than $600, and I biked to work every day. I had an 8-week stretch where I didn’t have to put a single ounce of gas in my car’s tank. I could have purchased 2 brand-new bikes for how much I would have been spending on gasoline.

Furthermore, with your reduced stress, increased happiness and better health, you’ll be spending less money on healthcare costs. You’ll have to pay for far less co-pays, prescriptions and long-term costs if you establish a consistent exercise regimen and incorporating cycling into your day is an excellent way to do so!

Other monetary benefits of biking instead of driving include less maintenance costs due to less wear & tear on your vehicle, less money spent on parking, and a possible savings on utilities if you’re able to shower at your workplace in the mornings.

Biking Makes You Happier

Have you ever heard of the Runner’s High? Essentially, it’s that feeling of absolute bliss induced when endorphins are released as you exercise. Not only are you doing wonders for your body physically, but you’re ensuring its mental vitality as well.

For those people out there with the short commute to work, think about the increase in your general productivity and workplace morale if you’re not subjecting yourself to the daily road rage-filled drives or shoulder-to-shoulder subway rides. Imagine coming to work cool, calm & collected instead of being frazzled from a less than enjoyable commute. While biking to work demands your attention to traffic and safety, there are many moments where your mind is free to wander. This feeling of mental freedom can have profound effects on all aspects of your life, including work.

Biking can also help strengthen social bonds which are a proven key to overall happiness. May is National Bike week, so there’s no time like the present to get a group of friends and/or family members together for a ride. If you’re feeling particularly inspired, sign up to participate in National Bike to Work Week or Day (week is May 14-18; day is May 18). Happy pedaling!

Do you bike to work or when running errands? Why or why not?


Comments

Bike Your Way to a Healthier, Richer, Happier You — 38 Comments

  1. I am also looking for a bicycle but one that I can easily manuver and get up 3 monster hills. Any suggestions for where to look without spending a fortune?

    • Hi Barb! I’d suggest first asking your friends/family–You’d be amazed at how many people have extra bikes lying around. I scored my first one for commuting purposes that way. Second, if you’ve already been fitted at a professional bike shop (free!) and know what bike frame/size would work for you, Craigslist and Freecycle are great ways to get near-new bikes. Finally, I bought mine at a local bike shop off-season, and I chose last year’s hybrid model. Doing so allowed me to score a huge deal and get a bike that can hold up to the pot hole-ridden roads of Boston. Good luck!

  2. I think the primary reason more don’t bike to work is that our cities and towns reflect a purely car-centric design. In most places, you’d be taking an inordinate risk bike-commuting. In the few places where cities have invested in dedicated bike paths or barriers separating car traffic from bike lanes, biking jumps.

    • Such a great point, Kurt–and one that makes me sad! Although Boston has recently gone to better lengths to instill a better sense of safety for bikers, I find that motorists in general simply do not respect my right to be on the road as well (and I mean on the side of the road…haha!). I minimize risk by always biking with a helmet, having a rear-view mirror on the handle bars, wearing bright clothing and having blinking lights. I also adhere to the standard that most cars will probably try to run my over if I get too aggressive, so I always yield and take it slow when necessary. The bike paths are also a great alternatives although I know not all cities have them…

    • That’s a great goal to have, considering all the benefits of biking! My commute is 12 miles each way but through city intersections. Luckily, my office has a shower so I’m able to just get ready for the day when I get in. It’s funny because I’m currently job searching and one of my requirements in the search is that there is a bike-friendly commuting option!! :)

  3. Good reminder to get a bike again. Due to how much I sweat, it’s not very practical for me to bike to work. I’d love to get into biking in my spare time though. I’ve recently got back into exercising more and it does wonders for your physical and mental health.

    • I couldn’t agree more. When I’m on a run or a ride, it’s like the stress of life just melts away. I also find it’s a great time to think through things or to generate solutions to what’s bugging me the most. What about biking for small errands or joining a local biking group on the weekends?

  4. My wife and I don’t own any bikes yet but we’re thinking about moving closer to our work and it will definitely be something we consider!

    Kansas City (where we live) is MAJORLY spread out and it makes it extremely difficult to bike anywhere. It’s rather annoying.

    That said, we live about 20 miles from each of our works but my wife recently got a new job (starting on 5/21) and we’ll both work in the same city! We’re hoping to move a lot closer and live within 3-4 miles of her work. If we’re able to do that biking to work on nice days is definitely going to be something we try to do!

    • I thought the same! I found the basis for these figures while digging through Huffington Post archives from last year, and I followed that up with some research done via National Bike Week in Portland, Oregon.

  5. I live in Portland and feel like a weirdo since I am one of the only people in my neighborhood that doesn’t own a bike! I’m a bit nervous about biking and I’m scared that I’m not aware of myself enough to stay alive while biking to work.

  6. Biking to and from work is certainly a great way to save on gas, and get good exercise to boot. What’s more, biking is fun. You get a chance to ride outdoors free from the constant stress of dealing with traffic and drivers. Considering that obesity is a big problem in the US, it would really be a benefit to so many people to bike-ride.

    • Yes, yes and YES!!!

      While I highlighted how I bike to work, it’s also important to stress that biking instead of driving can be done outside of the commute. For instance, you can bike for your errands (I sometimes make quick trips to the grocery store by bike with a backpack on), you can set social plans around a bike ride or you can bike to your friends/families’ homes.

    • That’s the tough part. My BF travels a lot for work, so he’s always a bit bummed when he’s headed to the airport via taxi and I’m hopping on my bike to the office. But, he does make a point to bike with me whenever he’s in town–especially on weekends.

      Do you travel to cities that have bike sharing programs? In Boston, New Balance has just launched an entire network of bikes in the cities that you just hop on & hop off of. You can pick them up at one kiosk and drop them off at another. You should look into it; I know NYC has something similar as well!

    • That’s a tough one. But I’ll play devil’s advocate and say that you’d be surprised how fast you can bike 15 miles depending on your route options :)

      What about biking only a portion of it? Could you drive and park somewhere along the route and bike the rest of the way?

  7. It was very interesting to me when I visited Amsterdam how many more people were biking. I have tried to bike as much as possible. The only problem for me is the sweat so I can’t go too far when I need to look presentable.

    • Amsterdam inspired me! It’s so great to see their commitment to biking.

      The sweat issue is a big one. Perhaps lobbying your employer to have shower facilities or using a local gym that’s close to work??

  8. My distance to work is 4.5 miles each way. I have a bike and cycle there; when not cycling I walk (or if in training, run) one way. It is a great way to keep moving! I have to say though that I do have a shower in my office – essential!

    • I love it!!! And yes, thankfully I have a shower as well. I couldn’t imagine subjecting my poor co-workers to my nonsense if there wasn’t one….sometimes I thoroughly enjoy biking faster than the cars are driving through traffic, so there’s a considerable amount of sweat dripping down my face when I arrive for the day :)

  9. I am an avid cyclist. I love riding in the outdoors. It is a great stress reliever and keeps you healthy.

    I don’t run errands or commute because it is too dangerous. I had an accident thanks to a parked car opening their door. Since then, I only ride on bike paths in the park.

    • Yikes–I’m glad that you’re OK! As an avid cyclist myself, I always make a point to look for bicycles when opening doors, turning, etc while driving; I wish more people did the same!

      I am in the middle of changing jobs, and I have to admit that the idea of being able to ride most of my commute on the bike path sounds better & better every day. I look forward to the day when there’s more of a bike movement and more respect from motorists for bicyclists!

  10. I love my bicycle! We are actually selling off our two cars this summer– We never drive them, so we were just waiting to repair one and pay off the other.

    Two more big pros to commuting by bike to work:

    1) I actually get home faster by bike than I do by car, since I can zip past all the rush hour traffic.

    2) If I need a bike repair, it usually costs $5-$30. If I need a car repair, I’m happy if it costs less than $200!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

I appreciate your readership and really enjoy hearing your thoughts on different topics. Thank you for contributing to the discussion.