Active Commuting or Active Transportation is typically defined as using your body’s own energy vs. gasoline or other fuel to get from home to work each day by walking, cycling, or using some other man-powered form of transportation (skateboard, roller blades, or Razor Scooter anyone?!?)
If you know you need to get more exercise, but aren’t sure how to squeeze it into your busy schedule, try building it into your work day by making your commute more physically active. Besides saving on fuel costs and reducing environmental pollutants, creating a habit of active commuting boosts fitness and could protect you from heart disease, obesity, and excessive stress.
Put the Car Keys Down...
The average American driver typically spends over 450 hours each year behind the wheel, according to the Center for Transportation Excellence – that’s nearly 11 work days! So it’s no wonder that studies are now showing that active commuting can also: lower health care costs, decrease absenteeism, increase employee productivity, and reduce a workplace’s parking and maintenance costs.
One study of 2,364 working adults showed that individuals who walked or bicycled to work on a regular basis reaped significant health benefits. Men and women who actively commuted were more fit compared to those who didn’t. The study found that male commuters also had reduced body mass index, obesity, blood pressure, insulin, and triglyceride levels. But women need not despair or feel left out - a review of eight studies found a significant reduction in cardiac risk with active commuting for both men and women, but this effect was stronger for women.
It may not seem that taking the bus or the train is an active way to get to and from work, but one study found that commuters who used public transportation modes walked on average 30% more a day and were four times more likely to achieve the recommended 10,000 steps a day than drivers. Public transit users simply walk for more time and further to get to the bus stop, bus platform and their final destination. This should come as no surprise as an often-heard excuse for not taking the bus or the train is bad weather, hot weather, or just sheer “I can’t walk THAT far!” I mean, look at how much time we’ll waste circling the Mall parking lot to get a “decent” spot close to the entrance. We Americans can be a lazy bunch!
In addition to the physical benefits from walking more, public transportation users also enjoy mental health benefits, including reduced stress and increased social interactions.
Many employers are starting to support active commuting by offering bicycle parking and storage, onsite showers, and subsidized public transportation passes. In Frederick and surrounding areas, anyone who commutes in a mode other than driving alone in a private vehicle can get a guaranteed emergency ride home up to four times a year (visit www.commuterconnections.org to learn more!). Check with your human resources office or benefits team to find out what resources are available, and if the answer is none, ask for these resources to be added to the company’s employee benefits package. If you need help convincing them, call TransIT’s Employer Connections! Our representative can come right to the work site and assist your company in starting these programs. Call (240)397-6044 for more information!
Whether or not you have workplace support for an active commute, you can take steps toward making your commute a healthier one. Here are just a few ideas:
Ask around. Chances are, someone in your workplace already bikes, walks, runs or rides the bus to work. Get first-hand advice on routes and other practical matters. Check online-join a community of bicycle commuters to share tips and arrange riding together. Brush up. Learn about bicycle road use laws in your state before hitting the pavement and make sure you know how to change a flat tire, fix a chain and perform other minor repairs en route. If walking or bicycling all the way to work isn’t practical, do it part of the way. Many public transit services offer bike racks. You could also get off the train or bus one stop early to increase your daily walking time. Or bicycle to work one way and ride the bus home and do the opposite the next day. Some health clubs offer shower-only memberships for active commuters. You could also keep a spare set of clothing, washrag and towel, baby wipes, and deodorant at your work station for a quick clean-up.
(adapted from information found on www.acefitness.org)