Want to avoid cancer and heart disease? Consider bicycling to work.
A study conducted by the University of Glasgow in Scotland found that commuting to work every day by bike was associated with a 45 percent lower risk of cancer, a 46 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 41 percent overall lower risk of premature death.
“Bicycling to work is a great way to integrate exercise into your daily routine,” says Michelle Dowd, an exercise physiologist at Tidelands HealthPoint Center for Health and Fitness in Pawleys Island. “It’s not feasible for everyone, but people who live near their jobs should consider giving it a try.”
The University of Glasgow study involved 264,337 participants who were asked about their usual mode of transportation and tracked for an average of five years. Researchers tallied the incidence of heart disease, cancer and other diseases then related the outcomes to the participants’ mode of travel.
Although not as beneficial as bicycling, the study found that walking to work was good for health, too. It was associated with a 27 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease but didn’t significantly improve cancer rates or reduce overall premature death.
Many of the obstacles people cite to commuting by bicycle are surmountable with a bit of planning, Dowd says.
To avoid sweating too much before getting to your job, wear lightweight clothes and pick a relatively easy route that is heavily shaded, she says. The cool morning air will help, too.
Once you arrive at work, give yourself a few minutes to cool down and change into your work clothes, she says. Switch back into your bicycling outfit before giving full effort on the way home, when sweating isn’t a concern.
“Once you get into a routine, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start bicycling to work sooner,” Dowd says. “It’s not just a great way to exercise, it also offers a time to think and connect with your surroundings.”
In support of bicycling and other outdoor activity, Tidelands Health recently announced plans to develop new multi-purpose paths around Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital and Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital. The latter path will serve as a central piece of a new 4-mile trail connecting the Murrells Inlet MarshWalk and the Intracoastal Waterway.