The Healthy Commute: Walking and Bike Riding to Lose Weight and Reduce Stress

The benefits of an active commute don’t stop at physical health.

Instead of driving to work, why not do something more active?

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When I was in college, I loved that I lived a 15-minute walk from campus. I rode my bike when I was in a hurry, but whenever I could, I chose to walk. I loved those 15-minute blocks of time, which gave my mind some time off and my body a break from sitting in class or studying. Sometimes, my walks to and from school were the only physical activity I got during a hectic time.

Most of us lead busy lives and it can be hard to get enough physical activity in each day. But the trick may be to fit as much physical activity into our regular daily routines as possible. Instead of driving to work, why not do something more active? If you can, try walking, taking public transport, and bike riding to lose weight, reduce stress, and improve your health all at the same time. 

Physical benefits of an active commute

An active commute is an easy way to increase your overall physical activity levels. In one study, 103 people who lived within two miles of work wore accelerometers to measure their activity levels during the study. People who walked to work had physical activity levels 45% higher than those who drove by car during the workweek. They also had 60% more minutes of moderate to vigorous activity than people who drove.[1]

Increasing your activity level with an active commute can make a big improvement in your health and it can help you to lose weight. A study published in May 2015 found that you can improve your body mass index (BMI) by choosing an active commute. In the study, people who switched from driving their own car to either biking, walking, or taking public transport had an average reduction in BMI of 0.32 kg/m2. On the other hand, switching from active travel to private motor transport was associated with an increase in BMI of 0.34 kg/m2.[2]

Similar results have been found in other studies. One study’s findings suggest that by using active commuting instead of driving, the average man in the study group could drop about six and a half pounds, and the average woman could lose about five and a half pounds. Body fat percentage is also commonly lower among those who use active or public transport.[3] What’s more, you can even reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by choosing an active commute, which is associated with a lower likelihood of diabetes and hypertension.[4]

Benefits for psychological wellbeing

The benefits of an active commute don’t stop at physical health; an active commute can also help you to stay happier. One study looked at data from almost 18,000 people over a period of 17 years. They found that the overall psychological wellbeing was higher in people who walked, biked, or took public transport to get to work compared to people who drove. And the longer people spent walking to work, the higher their scores of wellbeing were. On the other hand, there was a negative association between wellbeing and travel time for car drivers.[5]

Choosing an active commute

If you can, why not try an active commute to get to work? It is important to realize that “active commuting” doesn’t just mean walking or riding your bike to work; taking public transport also counts. While biking and walking are great options, they may not be realistic for some people. Public transport may be a more appropriate option for your personal situation, and studies show that it is just as good at helping you to lose weight, stay healthier, and be happier.[2,3,5]

Fore more tips on how to stay healthy while working, read these blogs:

Share your experience

How do you get to work? Do use public transport, walking, or bike riding to lose weight or improve your wellbeing? Share your tips for increasing your activity level during the workweek in the comments section below.


[1] Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2014 Mar 11;11(1):37.

[2] J Epidemiol Community Health. 2015 May 7. [Epub ahead of print]

[3] BMJ. 2014 Aug 19;349:g4887.

[4] Am J Prev Med. 2013 Sep;45(3):282-8.

[5] Prev Med. 2014 Dec;69:296-303.

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UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

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