Boost Your Health with Active Commuting
If you're tired of sitting in rush hour traffic, a new study offers motivation to pedal or walk your way to work instead. Researchers analyzed the commuting habits of more than 2,300 men and women. They found that close to 17 percent were active commuters-those who walked or biked for at least part of their commute. These active commuters were more physically fit than those who didn't use foot power. The active men in particular were less likely to be overweight and had healthier triglyceride, blood pressure, and insulin levels-all factors that cut heart disease risk.
More research is needed to determine how much activity is required to reap the physical benefits of active commuting. Participants varied in how many minutes and miles they logged on their commute. However, the study adds to growing research that, when added to overall exercise efforts, active commuting can help ward off heart disease and help keep you slimmer and healthier.
Below are some tips to get you started on an active commute:
- Prepare ahead of time. On a day off work, take a practice trip. Find a route you're comfortable with and time how long it takes. On the first day of active commuting, leave a little earlier so you can do it at a leisurely pace.
- Wear the right gear. If you're biking, wear reflective clothing and a helmet. If needed, bring clothing to change into or leave clean clothes at work. Always wear appropriate shoes when exercising.
- Bring toiletries. Most people who actively commute report they don't need a shower when they get to work. However, a quick trip to the restroom with a washcloth, hairbrush, and change of clothes can help you feel fresh and ready for the day. If a shower is necessary and your workplace doesn't offer one, call health clubs near your workplace to inquire about using their facilities.
- Set short-term goals. Commit to some activity in your commute one day a week. Start slowly and try to work up. Check with your doctor first if you have a health condition.
It's not always possible to use foot power alone to get to and from work. But you can still work health-boosting exercise into your daily commute. Walk or bike to a train station or bus stop and take public transportation from there. If you already ride a bus or train, get off a few stops early. Or, park your car a few blocks from your building and walk the rest of the way.
Even if you weren't very active when you were younger, starting an exercise program later in life still can help your heart. Doctors in one study asked more than 700 people ages 40 to 68 about their activity levels since they were 20. More than 300 of them had existing heart disease. People who were "couch potatoes" during their 20s and 30s but started exercising in their 40s, or even later, cut their risk for heart disease in half. These exercisers had lower heart risks than people who were active before 40 but then stopped exercising. So, what you do today can protect your heart tomorrow.
Always consult your physician for more information.