Your Health is a Great Reason to Bike to Work

Picture of me before biking to work

Before biking to work

Fact: I need exercise.

Fact: I hate exercise and really don’t have the time for it anyway.

Fact: I need to get to work.

Opinion: Not only does biking to work keep me in shape, it does so in a way that I enjoy, using time that I was already spending on my commute. I refer to this as a “destination-based workout,” which makes the activity no longer “exercise” (which I can’t stand) by turning it into “getting somewhere” (which I have to do anyway).

Regular physical exercise has been shown to prevent heart disease, hypertension, stroke, depression, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, and dementia. Studies have also indicated that regular exercise may benefit the immune system, improve joint health, and relieve stress. The key words here are “exercise” and “regular.” Biking is a great way to engage in exercise, and few things in life are more regular than going to work.

Weight Control

The number of calories you burn when you bike to work depends on your weight and your speed. The faster you go, or the heavier you are, the more calories you burn. For instance, if you ride at 14 to 15.9 miles per hour, and weigh 190 pounds, you should burn about 58 calories per mile (290 calories in five miles). If you ride at 12-13.9 mph you should burn about 43 calories per mile (215 calories in five miles). Since cycling also builds muscle, you will also increase your lean tissue ratio, raising your metabolism. See my story for one example of weight loss, or read about a 500 pound guy who decided to take up cycling.

Heart Health

Regular biking is excellent for the heart because the legs are the largest muscle group and working large muscles works the heart. Bicycling has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure. According to the British Medical Association, cycling just 20 miles a week (if you live five miles from work, that’s just riding twice a week) can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 50%. Don’t forget that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States.

Muscle Health

Everyone knows that bikers have great legs, but it doesn’t stop there. When you ride, you use almost every muscle in your body: your abs and back muscles balance you and the handlebars work the upper body, all without you even noticing it.

Immune System Health

Studies show that moderate activity, such as cycling, strengthens the immune system. It can also increase activity against tumor cells, assisting the prevention of related illnesses.

Increased Energy

A study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that bike riding improved energy levels by 20 percent and decreased fatigue by 65 percent. There’s no need to ride hard to harness to get this result; people in the study who pedaled at a low to moderate pace three times a week fought fatigue best.

Mental Health

Picture after biking to work

After biking to work

Cycling has a considerable relaxing effect due to its uniform, cyclic movement which stablises the physical and emotional functions of the body. This counteracts anxiety, depression and other psychological problems. The exercise also controls hormonal balance. I can’t count the number of times I’ve left work in a foul mood and arrived home happy and relaxed with the stress of the day all pedaled out of me.

Improving your health—it’s an excellent reason to consider biking to work.

Already in tip top health? Maybe you are interested in biking to work to benefit the planet, save money, or improve your quality of life instead.

You know the disclaimer drill: this post is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

1 Dan August 4, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Bravo. I can’t believe how fat you were in the “before” picture compared to how great you look now. Thanks for inspiring me (I already started bike commuting daily, down 7 pounds, at 214, and more to go).

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