Cycle commuting improves your physical and mental health, as well as boosting productivity at work – so long as you do it right.
Cycling to work regularly is a remedy for today’s sedentary illnesses: it halves your risk of obesity and heart disease. It also halves your risk of cancer, increases your lifespan by a couple of years, and gives you a fitness level equal to someone ten years younger. Oh, and it saves you money and makes you happier!
A 2018 study by VitalityHealth found that cyclists had levels of depression 25% lower than that of sedentary employees, and were more likely to be satisfied with their lives. On average, each cyclist’s higher productivity and lower absence levels equated to an extra six days work a year compared to inactive colleagues.
So cycling to work is great for you and your employer. But how do you maximise those benefits?
The more you cycle, within reason, the more you’ll benefit. So try to remove any hurdles that could stop you riding. Be organised so that a last minute bike or kit problem won’t force you to abandon cycling that day. Invest in good waterproofs and lights so you can cycle in any conditions. Perhaps buy a compact folding bike so that you’ve always got the option of some cycling, even if it’s only the last few miles.
Don’t overdo it
You want to arrive at work energised rather than exhausted. If you overdo it you’ll get less done at work and become run down and more susceptible to illness. If you’re tired or have a cold, leave the bike at home or go part way by train, bus, or car. If your route is simply too hilly or too far to ride regularly, how about an e-bike.
Take a stress-free route
Impatient drivers can sour your mood for hours, raising stress levels and ruining the buzz you get from travelling by bike. Choose a route that you enjoy more, even if it’s a little longer. What’s five minutes, or ten, set against a serene journey?
Avoid heavy traffic
Stress isn’t the only problem with busy roads. You’re more likely to have a SMIDSY incident (‘Sorry, mate, I didn’t see you’). And you’ll breathe in more pollution. Air pollution kills more people each year than smoking. The further you get from vehicle exhausts, the lower the concentration of pollutants. Even in a hectic city like London you can reduce your exposure to pollution by a third or more by avoiding busier roads and junctions.
Mix it up
Cycling is excellent aerobic exercise but it does nothing to help you stay supple. In particular, cycling tightens the hamstrings and can lead to a stiff lower back. To avoid stiffening up, do another activity now and again as well – yoga, perhaps, or swimming.
Ready to improve your commute?