Consider An Active Commute For Better Health

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
7/21/2009 2:49 PM   :  139 comments   :  12,780 Views

See More: fitness, news, cardio, walking,
Although it's a great way to get some extra activity, only about 17% of Americans walk or bike to work each day. Why is that number so low? Would you consider this kind of commute if you knew it could improve your overall health--regardless of your regular exercise routine? A new study shows the health benefits of an active commute.

In this study, commuters who walked or biked to work did better on treadmill tests than those who did not. The active male commuters also had healthier BMI's, cholesterol and blood pressure levels. The study interviewed over 2,000 workers about their commuting habits over the past 12 months. With American obesity rates continuing to climb, promoting active commutes to school and work should be something to consider. Previous research has shown that countries with the highest levels of walking and biking have lower levels of obesity.

So why don't more people walk and bike to work? Many of us (me included) live too far from the office to make walking or biking feasible. Lack of sidewalks or bike paths also discourages an active commute. But research has shown that when cities build bike paths and employers encourage these practices by offering showers and changing areas for their employees, the number of people biking and walking to work increases.

My family recently moved to a new neighborhood, and my daughter's school will be less than 1/2 mile away. I was excited when I discovered this, thinking about us walking to and from school each day to promote extra activity and even just for the fresh air. But I was disappointed to learn that there are not sidewalks and almost no shoulder on the side of the road. The idea of driving her 1/2 mile to and from school each day bothers me. Besides the fact that it will take me longer to get her and her brother into and out of their car seats, it would be much better for our health and the environment to walk instead of drive. But she's only 2, so maybe there's time for me to lobby for some sidewalks in our neighborhood before school begins.

Do you walk or bike to work? If not, why? Would you consider it if there were better access to the resources you needed?


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Comments

  • 89
    I walk everywhere. I don't drive so my options are walk, bus, cab or bum a ride from a friend. Work is close enough and there are good sidewalks. It's about a mile each way. The grocery store is a mile and a half each way. My pharmacy is a mile and a half in the other direction. To go further out I have to grab a bus but it's still almost half a mile to the bus stop and then I usually have to walk from the bus stop to my destination. I LOVE to walk. I'm moving in a few weeks to a neighborhood with busy roads and no sidewalk or shoulder. I'm going to be stuck asking my friends to drive me just about everywhere. Even the bus stop which is five blocks away is inaccessible because of the busy roads. I am so not looking forward to the move. I hope I won't be there very long!! - 7/22/2009   9:28:43 PM
  • 88
    Wish I could by I live more than 20 miles from work.. - 7/22/2009   9:22:52 PM
  • SNOOPYSPARK
    87
    I would love to be able to walk, bike, skate, or scooter to work. Unfortunately, I live a little over 12 miles away from my work with 6 miles of it being freeway time. - 7/22/2009   8:01:17 PM
  • BSWEET101
    86
    I want to bike or walk to work -- presently just over 1 mile commute -- but I have to take my younger kids to child care, which makes an active commute less possible. Maybe when they're a little older... - 7/22/2009   7:58:44 PM
  • 85
    I would love to bike to work, but I work at a childcare center and I bring my two kids to work with me. I wouldn't feel safe or comfortable transporting them that way. - 7/22/2009   7:31:37 PM
  • 84
    Please be extra, extra careful out there if you bike in an area that shares the road with cars. A friend of mine, who is a good biker and commutes regularly, was hit by a car despite all her precautions. She's lucky to be alive, yet may never be entirely without pain after three months in the hospital. My former college town is terrific for bikes - better than shared roadways, there are bike trails through greenbelts.

    It is for reasons like these that I will never bike to work in my current community, and will stick to using my bike on safe trails, meant for bikes, without cars.

    I routinely walk when it's an option, as being a safer and more convenient alternative. - 7/22/2009   6:37:10 PM
  • KEENTINA
    83
    I bus but walk some. I walk extra blocks instead of waiting for the bus. I try to get to work early so I can walk more downtown. I will drive to parks for a walk around a lake or wooded area. I go to the Farmer's Market because it's more walking, better prices, and better food than the grocery store - plus it's more fun. I live in a metro area where they have sidewalks in most areas, lots of bike/walking paths around. I don't bike because my knees are bad and it's extremely painful - as are steps. I can use the stairstepper - maybe because it's on air shocks and cushioned. For me, busing is cheaper than driving, it's a chance to socialize as others I know also bus. We had a senator who bussed daily for the enviroment. It's nice to know that works. So, I used it as an attitude change - look at the positive and improve my depression. Combine the bus with walking and save money and the environment as well as attempt to lower my blood pressure. Use some of the time to read and relax. I didn't realize I had so many positive things in my life until I started listing what was good about the active commute - for me and my community. - 7/22/2009   6:14:39 PM
  • 82
    I biked to work 2-3 days per week when we lived in DC and rode the Metro on the other days - beat the cost of purchasing a parking pass by quite a bit.

    We now live on a military base, and I don't get the same workout on a two-minute bike ride, but try to keep riding to work. - 7/22/2009   6:01:10 PM
  • 81
    I would LOVE to bike/ walk to work, but I'm at a different work site each day, often 2-3 sites, plus I have bags of equipment and files that I have to take with me. BUT, I do try to walk my errands done on the days I'm near a particular place. For example, the days I'm near the store, I walk to the store and back from that particular work site (if I have the time). I actively look for places near my sites that I can utilize that way. I'm fortunate to be able to plan my own schedule that way! - 7/22/2009   4:59:25 PM
  • 80
    Work is 10+ miles away, and I leave home at 5:30 am, not a great time to be biking when it's still dark outside. Also, there are few sidewalks to use along the way. I wish it were closer, then I would walk for sure! - 7/22/2009   4:33:26 PM
  • 79
    Well for one thing, I have to take my daughter to daycare / school and pick her up. Now how would I do that with a 25-mile round trip commute and dangerous roads? People who say that everyone can ride a bike to work need to realize that A LOT of us have children who need to be transported safely. - 7/22/2009   2:59:01 PM
  • 78
    My husband and I practiced my commute to work via bike just the other day. It was great but sadly, I live in NJ... land of the traffic circle. At 6AM, it was fine but the ride home would be extremely dangerous when getting to the circle part of the ride. There is really no way around it either. There is only one main entrance to the facility I work in and the road leading to it is directly off the circle. It is only 4.5 miles though and I have more than enough time in the morning to go for a 5 to 10 mile ride before going to work. It defeats the purpose of saving gas and such but until there is a safer way in, I don't want to risk it!

    Also, I live in a town without sidewalks. The new developments all have sidewalks but not the older parts of town where I live. There really isn't anywhere you can walk to anyway so I guess its no big deal but it would be nice to be able to go for a walk and not worry about cars.

    ~Ang - 7/22/2009   2:20:19 PM
  • 77
    I encourage those of you who find an active commute impossible to find out your local active transportation group - I'm sorry I don't know a nationwide group, but the Chicago-land version is the Active Transportation Alliance. They work with citizens and local government to encourage and enable walking and biking over motoring. Best of luck to everyone, for all of our sakes!

    I have a super easy commute of 6 miles round trip. I bike it 95% of the time. I am not sweaty or smelly when I arrive because I take it easy - I am not racing to work (usually!), I am just getting there. - 7/22/2009   2:02:37 PM
  • JD41US
    76
    I am only 2 miles from work and I have biked and walked on occasion and as not much time to work up a sweat that is not a factor but the baggage is. I have my purse, computer, lunch, water bottle, paper, etc. every single morning and it is cumbersome to do it on a bike as I have tried. I have to take my computer home for work purposes (we are self-employed) and use it often at night. - 7/22/2009   2:00:38 PM
  • KIKI8508
    75
    Unfortunately, I have to drive to work because I my house is to far from my job. If I could've at least walk to work, I would though. That would have been a good morning exercixe and it would save on gas too :). - 7/22/2009   1:52:05 PM
  • 74
    DH rides his bike to work every day - I work 2 miles - could but it is heavy traffic and I don't like messy hair and sweat before work - so I don't. I would if I had to though but choose not... It is more recreation for me to hit the trails on days off. - 7/22/2009   1:37:19 PM
  • JAY75REY
    73
    Like many others, there is no safe route between my home and work (16 mi.). Lacks bike paths, goes through bad neighborhoods, lots of city traffic stop and go. Also, I would have to upgrade to a better quality bicycle.
    If there was a better, safer bike route, I would try this during good weather seasons, at least 1x a week. My employer does have great facilities for bike commuters.
    Also, I have taken the bus, and have considered whether I could ride the bike and leave it at the bus stop area locked. Afraid of getting it stolen. There are bike racks on the bus but handles only 2 bikes at a time. When gas is expensive, I have seen more than 2 bikes, and then they have to take the bikes inside the crowded bus. !!! - 7/22/2009   1:16:34 PM
  • XTMONT
    72
    I work from home, but I do ride my bike to the gym three times a week and on short errands. I like the fact that I'm doing something for my health and cutting down on my impact on the earth. However, the ways to the gym do not have bike lanes, and are along a major roadway where I know the car speeds top 50 miles an hour. It's nerve-wracking to ride in traffic, and I wish the city would invest in either improving (or adding shoulders) or building bike lanes. - 7/22/2009   1:16:09 PM
  • 71
    In order to preserve the "country town" ambiance many suburbs have never put in sidewalks. All it takes is for one or two children to be killed before a neighborhood demands (and pays for) sidewalks. Surely we could ask and provide for this for our children and ourselves. It's fun to walk to school or shopping or parks. - 7/22/2009   11:25:49 AM
  • 70
    I live only 3 miles away from work, but the roads have uneven surface, potholes, and bad drivers. I'm simply not good enough with a bike to navigate this route every day safely.

    If we had designated bike lanes, I would have definitely considered that. - 7/22/2009   11:24:11 AM
  • 69
    Am retired now, but my first job I had ~ I biked to work, only because I couldn't afford to purchase a car. It was uphill all the way to work & when I was tired and exhausted, at end of day....I just had to hop on my bike & ride down hill for the first 5 miles of my homeward trip!

    After that job, I lived 20 to 30 miles away from work. We didn't ride bikes, but car pooled every day!

    I prefer to do my cycling on a bike trail, where I don't have to be surrounded by inconsiderate people in cars. - 7/22/2009   11:21:55 AM
  • 68
    I would absolutely walk or bike to work if it was feasible. As it is, I live too far and would have to go through several bad neighborhoods to get to work from my house. I do however take the train and walk from my house to the train and the train station to my office, and then back home every day. It adds up to about 2.75 miles a day. - 7/22/2009   11:09:02 AM
  • 67
    I live about 13 miles from work. One way is all highway, so I wouldn't bike there. The other way is back roads with no sidewalks or bike paths. The road shoulders are very small, and there is a lot of traffic; it's simply not safe. It is frustrating, because my employer does have showers for the employees. Not many people bike to work, though I would if there were sidewalks or a bike path. Instead, I ride my bike on the local rail trails on the weekends. - 7/22/2009   11:00:40 AM
  • 66
    I would too like to ride my bike to work. I live in a fairly rural area and it is only 8 miles to work, but this year 6 people have been killed on their bikes in this area. Other's have not adjusted to looking for bikers on the road. To bike outside I have to be out befor 6am and in by 7am before the roads get busy. - 7/22/2009   10:43:32 AM
  • 65
    I have a 45 min. drive on the freeway, it isn't feasable for me to ever ride a bike to work. - 7/22/2009   10:35:27 AM
  • 64
    I am a stay at home mom so I don't work but last week my hubby was so sweet and went out and bought me a bike and a trailer and I have put it to use almost every day!!!!! And when he starts school the school is about a half mile to a mile away and I will be taking him then too!!!! - 7/22/2009   10:22:11 AM
  • 63
    The primary problem I have always had with walking or biking for functional reasons (i.e. getting from point A to point B as a means of transportation) is that is just too cumbersome to be of benefit. When I work or do errands, I have too much baggage to carry. Since my places of employment vary (client's homes or places of business, various fitness centers, etc.), I don't always know how long it would take or what obstacles (lack of sidewalks, no bike lanes, etc.) I will encounter. Since I live in Texas and work in various venues, taking a shower and changing clothes upon arrival often isn't an option and arriving at a client's home or place of business all sweaty and in my biking or walking clothes certainly isn't. Even when I am going to a fitness center to teach a class, riding my bike, taking a shower, teaching a class, riding home, taking another shower, etc. just takes up too much of my time.

    So the bottom line for me (and I think for a lot of other people) is that biking and walking/running/hiking are better left to recreational or fitness activities rather than a functional mode of transportation. For instance, if I worked say 5 miles from home, it might take me 30 minutes to bike to work (allowing for traffic stops) and another 30 minutes to shower and change upon arrive. Reverse this on the commute home, and that is a 2 hour investment for a 10 mile commute, of which less than half of that time is spent actually riding my bike. If I drive to work, it takes maybe 15 minutes round trip. That saves me an hour and 45 minutes every day that I can spend biking or running for pleasure where ever I please. That is a no brainer for me. - 7/22/2009   10:17:49 AM
  • 62
    I can bike to work now (or walk, since it's so close) but I don't have a bike. I work in a law firm, which sometimes demands me having a vehicle to do errands for my job. When I am in school and not so much at work, I can be close in distance to everything I need and when I get a bike, I would love to ride everywhere! - 7/22/2009   10:07:16 AM
  • 61
    I spent the last three years in Germany where nearly every community has bike paths. The three years before that I was in Wester WA where there are generous shoulders on most roads and many bike. Now I am in Oklahoma where most roads do not have sidewalks or shoulders. In addition, to get anywhere I would have to bike on 4 lane highways. That proposition scares me. - 7/22/2009   10:07:09 AM
  • 60
    I would love to bike to work, it's 10 miles exactly from my front door to my office door, but don't for several reasons. The main reason is that the route I would have to take to work isn't really safe for people on bikes. There isn't a bike lane and most people driving in the morning are doing good to not run into one another in their cars, let alone pay attention to riders. Secondly, I have so many activities and errands to do after work, that it would make it really hard to bike. I play in two tennis leagues, which tend to have their matches at 6:30. This requires me to bring a change of clothes and my gear with me on the days I play. If I biked, that would mean I'd be carrying my work bag, my clothes bag, and my tennis bag, while trying to avoid the reason #1 above. :) There's also not a place at work I can clean up. Doing any physical activity means that I get hot and sweaty, which means I should shower before I start the work day. If there were showers available, I'd be more likely to ride in.

    I feel it's safer for me to drive to work, even though I know the health benefits (and cost savings) would be beneficial. - 7/22/2009   9:55:15 AM
  • 59
    Living 12 miles from work, it's a bit far to either walk or bike. I have to admit that the greatest deterrent is that there are no showers available or a place to change - otherwise I would consider biking to work a few days a week during the summer when traffic is down and the ride is safer. But biking to work would certainly require a shower before starting the day. - 7/22/2009   9:52:51 AM
  • LONEDOGG
    58
    I am a bicycle commuter, I started fresh in September. I have now lost 53 pounds. I work four days a week, and started with 24 miles in those four days. Four months into this I bought a better bike, and have increased my weekly 4 day trip to 50 miles, plus I started a lunch bike riding club here at the office. We ride twice per week, we broke the 10 mile per day goal this week.
    One note I must add is that I only live three miles from work, so I take the long way to work, and home. Rain, snow, ice, sun, doesnt matter I am on the road everyday.
    " A man who wants something will find a way, a man who doesnt will find an excuse:" Stephen Dolley - 7/22/2009   9:51:02 AM
  • 57
    We recently moved, changing my 15 min. bike commute to a 45-60 min. bike commute (each way)...which is a bit too much for me most days! I try to do it occasionally, but what works really well for me right now is biking to the bus stop, locking my bike (they have a specially designated rack & shelter) and then taking the bus the rest of the way! - 7/22/2009   9:36:04 AM
  • LISBONSLADY
    56
    I used to work in New York City and lived in the suburbs and would walk 20 minutes everyday to and from the train station and when we arrived in NY would then walk about another 15 so per work day I was walking a little over an hour a day. And the mornings the walk from home was all uphill and I was usually in a rush so I epitomized "brisk"... lol

    My co workers seemed surprised but I never counted it or realized how much it kept me in shape... now I live in NJ and it's not set up for walking, even to and from the bus stop... I actually consider the change in commute part of the reason I gained weight and am looking forward to moving down the road and being back in an environment that I can be more active, just in practical ways. It's going to be one of my requirements! - 7/22/2009   9:32:40 AM
  • 55
    Not at the moment. - 7/22/2009   9:28:19 AM
  • 54
    I live 1.6 miles from my work, live in a small town in upstate NY with sidewalks, and walk to and from work whenever I can. No ice on the sidewalks and no major downpours. We moved here 18 years ago, because my boys wanted to be able to walk to school. Our town is small enough, with elementary schools located in each section, so that only special ed children are bused. All other children can walk to school. There are sidewalks, crosswalks, and crossing guards throughout. I love being able to walk to work and the walk home is a great way to unwind after a busy day. I change into scrubs at work, so I don't have to worry about sweaty clothes. Showers are available, but I don't usually get too sweaty. - 7/22/2009   9:24:01 AM
  • 53
    I would love to bike around town but there are no safe places to lock up a bicycle. - 7/22/2009   8:31:25 AM
  • 52
    I live 23 miles from work, so I can't do that. When I did live in town and close enough to walk or bike I couldn't because I had to pick the kids up from daycare. Great idea for the right situation though. - 7/22/2009   8:25:34 AM
  • 51
    I don't bike to work for many of the reasons you mentioned - I live too far from the office to make it feasible (32 miles), but I would still consider it occasionally if my office had a shower I could use, and if I didn't think I'd be killed on the ride in (lack of bike routes). At home on the weekends, I do occasionally run errands by bike, even though it is somewhat dangerous due to lack of sufficient bike paths/lanes. - 7/22/2009   8:10:36 AM
  • 50
    I have found another way to commute: whenever I need work done on my car I load my bike and bike from the service station to work. At the end of the day I bike back to the service station, pick up my car, load up my bike and head home! I call this "greencycling"...! :-)

    Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams - 7/22/2009   8:02:30 AM
  • 49
    I had planned to commute to work 2-3 times a week on my bike this summer for the first time. I live about 12 miles from work and could do this in about 30-45 mins.

    But THEN road construction hit and made my route too unsafe to consider this option...and of course it's an all-summer project! Grrr...but NEXT summer...I WILL be doing this!

    I love the idea of a commute by foot or bike and I think we all need to push our lawmakers on this idea of making our communities "walkable".

    Check out my blog for further ideas on how to do this:

    http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_p
    ublic_journal_individual.asp?blog_i
    d=2201863


    Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams - 7/22/2009   7:59:24 AM
  • 48
    I wish I lived close enough to my workplace to walk or bike to and from, but that isn't the case.

    Due to a neurological issue, I am no longer able to balance a bike. I've been considering investing in an adult tricycle, but they are pretty pricey and it is next to impossible to find a used one. If I could get one, it would still be too far for me to bike (trike?) to and from work, but I would certainly do that for errands around town in decent weather.

    Who knows, though? If I had the trike I might give the commute a shot now and then.

    I think you should definitely start lobbying right away for the sidewalks! - 7/22/2009   7:47:43 AM
  • 47
    My place of work is not that far away...couple of miles...but of all the routes to get there, they are all busy highways.
    The drivers are terrible in the morning...I'm always thankful to GOD in getting me to work safety.
    I would be road kill if I ever attempted to use my bike to go to work. (No kidding)
    - 7/22/2009   7:36:57 AM
  • 46
    I don't bike or walk to work now because I'm on disability. I used to walk and bike to work when I lived in Fla. and they had sidewalks. However the officers said I had to use the road. Where I live now they use the road. People just go around them, that is the bikes. When you walk you need a backup incase of rain or ice storms, although schools usually cancelled then, but not for snow. Bad weather can ruin a good day of walking. No matterhow much you try to stay dry you can't. Vieing for sidewalks is good. You need those to even walk after school. - 7/22/2009   7:06:07 AM
  • 45
    I used to ride my bike the 2 miles to work...before I had a car. I would love to still be able to do so, but I work 3rd (11pm-7am) shift and in a very bad neighberhood. i took my chances for three months, but after seeing some dangerous events - i don't think I will ride anymore.
    There is a sidewalk for most of it, but it's really dark at night. too many places for people to hide.


    I did love it in the A.M., it gave me time to unwind and relax before getting home. - 7/22/2009   5:54:21 AM
  • 44
    I think there's a need to lobby -- loud, long and hard -- for better public transportation options. Here in Boston we are loaded with them. Elsewhere, not so much, and there are issues with pollution and traffic where there isn't as much pub tran. And, not coincidentally, there's more obesity.

    Write your Congressional delegation, tell your Mayor, you want buses, you want subways, you want bike lanes. It ain't free and it ain't cheap (though buses and bike lanes are cheaper than subways). But nothing good ever is, eh? - 7/22/2009   5:46:30 AM
  • 43
    I have a one-way commute of over 60 miles so biking isn't feasible. There is also no public transit that would take me to my job, so I'm stuck with the car. - 7/22/2009   4:44:43 AM
  • 42
    Even when there's no traffic, it takes me 45 minutes to drive to work. It would take me all day to bike there. I looked up taking public transit, but found out it would take me over 2 hours each way and 4 transfers (2 buses, subway, another bus) plus over a mile of walking. Forget that (well, except for the walking part-I don't mind that)! When I lived in the Bay Area, I took BART everywhere. I miss that convenience. The transit system where I live now in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles) doesn't go near my house or to the places I go the most. - 7/22/2009   3:03:11 AM
  • 41
    I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue and now that I am also obese walking more than a few yards is extremely painful for me.

    Walking is probably what I miss most about my old life. I lived in Seattle for 9 years without a car. I walked for both transportation and enjoyment. If I could walk it in less than an hour, I'd skip the bus. I regularly walked 3 to 5 miles a day with up to 10 miles a day on weekends.

    My goal is return to my ability to walk without pain by losing weight and exercising. I'm starting slow (I have no choice) by walking around my building 4 days a week. I work next to a wildlife sanctuary with extensive trails and eventually I will see the turtles my coworkers talk about. - 7/22/2009   1:55:19 AM
  • 40
    15 years ago and for 5 years weather permitting (no rain or santa ana winds) I cycled to/from work, 44 miles roundtrip, 5 days/wk and I loved it, for those of you in So Cal it was from West Hills to Burbank, LA county has always had crazy/neurotic drivers and even back then I got clipped a couple times but these days drivers are out-right maniacs, they're not at all friendly with cyclists.

    We've had kids get hit and very experienced good record cyclists get hit (killed) and I for the most part have finally healed from a serious rock climbing accident which I lost a kidney amongst other severe injuries, I'm too concerned about cycling with the dramatic driving lunatics, getting hit, and losing my remaining kidney.... - 7/22/2009   1:01:04 AM

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