The health benefits of cycling to work

The health benefits of cycling to work

Cycling to work is an easy, convenient way to fit exercise into your daily life.

It’s cold, it’s raining, it’s dark again already… it can be hard to summon the energy to cycle to work at this time of year.

But hard as it might be at first there are big rewards if you can stick with it. And once you get into it you’ll probably find that you look forward to getting on your bike every day. Sustrans has crunched the numbers to show how even a short commute by bike can be good for your health.

The current government recommendation is for adults to do 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Moderate activity can include walking fast, cycling on the flat, or playing volleyball, doubles tennis or basketball. Vigorous activity includes jogging, riding a bike fast or up hills, gymnastics, or playing singles tennis, football or rugby.

It can be hard to find the time (or the motivation) to head to the gym after a long day at work, or get up at 6am for a run, and it’s hardly the weather for tennis (whether it’s doubles or singles).

Cycling to work is an easy, convenient way to fit exercise into your daily life. By cycling to work you can fit in a little exercise every day and barely even notice it.

And by cycling through the winter you’ll be in great shape when summer rolls around again, zipping up hills past all the fair weather riders.

Exercise is also great for your mental health. And with many of us suffering from the January blues cycling is a great way to get your heart rate up, release some endorphins and put a grin on your face.

Mini commute

A nice easy two miles by bike might not feel like you’re getting much exercise but it all adds up. If you commute by bike five days a week you’ll get in 100 minutes of exercise and be well on your way to the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise. If you cycle fast or your commute involves hills then you will have already met your goal of 75 minutes of vigorous activity.

commuting two miles by bike infographic

Short commute

If you cycle three miles by bike to work (for a total daily journey of six miles) you’ll achieve your recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity each week without ever having to set foot in a gym.

commuting three miles by bike infographic

Cycling three miles will only take around 15 minutes, and in many cities will be quicker than getting in the car. Plus you can spend a smug Saturday morning snuggled in bed because you’ll have already completed your 150 minutes of moderate exercise for the week.

Combined commuting

If you live too far from work to cycle all the way in you can try combined commuting. This is where you combine different types of transport to get you to work. So you could cycle two miles to the station before hopping on a bus or train then walking a final half mile to your office.

If you work in a city centre this is a great way to avoid the congestion near your workplace. It allows you to commute in an active way and get some exercise even if your journey is too long for you to cycle the whole way. If you want to be able to cycle at both ends of your journey you could try a fold up bike, or buying a cheap second hand bike that you leave at the station overnight.

two miles to station infographic

If you commute this way you’ll be getting an amazing 3 hours and 20 minutes of exercise a week and, by alternating between walking and cycling, you’ll vary the muscles you use.

Average commute

In 2011, the Office for National Statistics calculated that the average distance travelled to work is 9.32 miles. While that may seem like a long way to cycle it is possible, especially if you build up to it slowly. You could, for example, try cycling in and getting the bus home one day and doing the same thing the other way around the next day.

9 miles by bike infographic

Cycling to work is a great way to fit a little exercise into your daily routine. Physical activity is also good for your mental wellbeing; evidence shows that it can help protect people against anxiety.

With the days still short and dark looking after your physical and mental wellbeing is more important than ever. Why not try cycling to work this week? You might just enjoy it more than you expect.