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The Benefits of an Active Commute

Written by Emily Casarez, MSc. on in Health & Wellness

Have you ever considered riding or walking to work? You may already know that physical activity is beneficial to health, however, you may be surprised to learn just how beneficial an active commute can be for you. A recent BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal) study released last April analyzed potential links between how people commute to work and incidences of cardiovascular disease, cancer and all causes of mortality.

Have you ever considered riding or walking to work? You may already know that physical activity is beneficial to health, however, you may be surprised to learn just how beneficial an active commute can be for you. A recent BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal) study released last April analyzed potential links between how people commute to work and incidences of cardiovascular disease, cancer and all causes of mortality.

The study concluded that while both cycling and walking to work were associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and all causes of mortality, cycling had a greater positive impact on health and also lowered the risk of cancer.

The reduction in the risk of health disparities is believed to be associated with the increase in overall daily physical activity. A sedentary lifestyle is a known contributor to an increased risk of poor health outcomes.

But you can make some simple changes, such as riding your bike or walking to work a few times a week, which may not only boost your physical health and fitness but could also improve your mental health, boost your energy, increase your productivity and reduce fatigue.

Other positive impacts are related to a reduction in negative environmental impacts and a more economical form of transportation.

Perhaps the most interesting portion of the BMJ article is that it suggests influencing policy as a way to initiate a shift in commuting styles. The article states that the results have important policy implications that “present major opportunities for the improvement of public health.” This suggests that policies should be designed to encourage more active modes of commuting, particularly cycling.

Lompoc Valley Medical Center’s Director of Nutrition Services, Julie Chudak, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer, cites many health benefits of actively commuting to work, including an increased intake of Vitamin D. Chudak, leads by example, choosing to walk to work most days.

Lompoc is fortunate to have temperate weather all year long, making active commuting a feasible option. National Bike Month is in May, however, in California, every day is a great day to ride your bike to work. Live too far from work to ride your bike? Consider taking your bicycle with you, parking a mile or two away from work and riding the final stretch of your commute. Be sure to pick a bicycle-friendly route and give yourself extra time in the morning. The Lompoc bike map can be found on the City of Lompoc webpage: www.cityoflompoc.com/transit/LompocBikeMap.pdf

If you’re interested in lowering your risk of disease by actively commuting to work, you’re in luck. The Healthy Lompoc Coalition is doing its part to offer the Lompoc community an opportunity to participate in active commuting. Fall Bike to Work Day is Friday, Sept. 29. Register today to participate and win free prizes. Visit www.healthylompoc.org/lompoc-event/biketowork to register now.

Already biking to work, or have a bike you would like to learn how to fix? Visit the Bike Repair Station Tutorial on Saturday, Sept. 30 outside the YMCA and Aquatic Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to learn how to make minor repairs to your bike. This repair station was funded by the Lompoc Family YMCA, with funding for the station tutorials provided by the California Office of Traffic Safety. Two additional stations funded by the Santa Barbara Foundation will be installed throughout Lompoc this fall.

To stay up to date on events, follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/healthylompoc. If you bike to work on Friday, be sure to send us photos to post.

To access the full BMJ study, please use the following link: http://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1456

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Author: Emily Casarez, MSc., Community Health Program Manager

Emily Casarez is the Community Health Program Manager for the Healthy Lompoc Coalition. A Lompoc native, she graduated from Cabrillo High School in 2009. In 2013, earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree from California Lutheran University in Exercise Science, emphasizing Health Professions. She also earned a Master’s of Science degree in Public Health and Health Promotion from Bangor University in North Wales.

http://healthylompoc.org