Whether you’re an avid cyclist or a novice, pedaling to your workplace provides plenty of perks. In addition to health benefits, biking also allows you to explore your community, save time and money, and help the environment. Certified personal trainer and registered dietitian April Ho shares some health benefits of riding, as well as tips for success.
Biking to work can improve your heart health, metabolism, and even your brain function.
For example, biking on uneven terrain builds an automatic high-intensity interval training workout into your bike ride. It improves cardio-metabolic risk factors in less time than a steady state of moderate physical activity. It also increases metabolism for a longer period of time after a workout, compared to a steady state.
And regular cardiovascular exercise improves function of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for formation of new memories and learning and regulating emotions.
The bottom line: Few things will set you up for a successful workday more than a morning bike ride!
Here are some tips for bike-to-work success:
- Plan your route. Use an interactive map (like this one) to see all of the bike trails, designated bike lanes, etc. along your route to work.
- Know the road. Learn the road markings along your route and use any available bike lanes, sharrows and bike boxes.
- Watch the weather. When rain is in the forecast, line your backpack with a plastic bag and suit up with waterproof pants, wool socks and a water-resistant jacket.
- Keep refreshed. A small hygiene kit with travel toiletries, wet wipes and a microfiber towel will help you look and feel fresh for your first morning meeting.
Stay safe with the proper gear
If you’re just starting out, essential gear is minimal: a bike, a bike lock, a helmet and a backpack will serve you well. However, if you love the experience and want to make biking a regular commute option, think about adding some of this gear to your toolkit:
- Bike panniers, which serve as backpacks for your bike that can help prevent lower back pain while riding.
- Tire change or tire repair kits.
- Reflective vests and flashing taillights, to help make you as visible as possible to drivers.
- Side mirrors that attach to bike handles. These help you see cars coming up behind you that may be driving unsafely, allowing you to get off the road.
April Ho is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer with the Center for Community Health & Prevention of the University of Rochester Medical Center.