Proven Ways Your Commute Can Make You Healthier

Add some movement to your morning routine with active transportation to benefit mind, body and the environment.

Medically reviewed in June 2021

Active transportation—a mode of transportation powered by people, like biking and walking—promotes a multitude of benefits, according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index.

Here’s the proof
Active transportation impacts communities in four key ways: providing affordable transportation, boosting the local economy, achieving a cleaner environment and improving physical health.

Many communities that have promoted active transportation by widening sidewalks, adding protected bike lanes and improving pedestrian crossings have experienced an increase in overall well-being of residents. On average, people that live in high “Active Living” areas have lower rates of obesity and obesity-related conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The Beach Cities Health District of California implemented walk- and bike-ability improvements as part of the Blue Zones Project, which contributed to a 15 percent decline in overweight and obese residents.

Gallup and Healthways have examined the Active Living environment in 48 medium- to large-size metro areas. Of these, the top five Active Living communities have a 20 percent lower obesity rate than the five lowest performing communities. Communities where walking paths, bike lanes and parks are more prevalent and easy to access have lower rates of obesity. Likewise, rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, two conditions associated with obesity, are lower in these areas, as well.

The connection
Obesity, or a body mass index (BMI) over 30.0, is a common, but serious condition. More than one-third of American adults are considered obese, which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can reduce a person’s risk of obesity and diminish the risks of obesity-related conditions. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity for adults each week.

An easy way to rack up these recommended minutes? Strap on your sneakers and try biking or walking to work. One study suggests those who cycled to work—an average of 30 miles per week—had a 45 percent lower risk of cancer and 46 percent lower risk of heart disease, when compared with those who took non-active modes of transportation. Walking to work was also associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

Active transportation is an easy way to sneak more physical activity into your day—and burn extra calories—without even realizing it. If walking or biking to work isn’t feasible, try to add more movement to your everyday routine. Park your car at the far end of the parking lot, take the stairs, rather than the elevator or take a walk during your lunch break. You’ll be amazed at how quickly small changes can add up!

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