Friday, August 14, 2009

Why Should People Walk or Bike to Work?

Exercise forms an integral part in the prevention of heart disease and many other ailments. However, many of the working people are being pressured by heave workload that they can hardly find time to engage in any form of exercises or physical activities.

A large study in United States for health and commuting found that walking or biking to work, even partway, can boost physical fitness but sadly, very few Americans actually do it. In fact, only about 17 percent of workers walked or bicycled any portion of their commute.

According to experts, things like crumbling sidewalks, lack of bike paths and long distances have prevented American commuters from walking or biking to work.

Researchers from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined the tests and questionnaires from 2,364 workers (middle-aged city dwellers) who were part of a larger federally funded study on heart disease risk. These participants, who lived in Chicago; Minneapolis; Birmingham, Alabama; and Oakland, California, were asked in 2005-2006 about their commuting habits in the past 12 months

It was found that those active commuters did better on treadmill tests of fitness, even after accounting for their leisure-time physical activity levels. This indeed suggested that commuter choices do make a difference.

In the study, the male active commuters also had healthier numbers for body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, insulin and blood fats (known as triglycerides). On the other hand, the researchers speculated that women walked or biked shorter distances and they may have done so less vigorously

The researchers acknowledged that the study has a chicken-and-egg problem. People, who are already active, could be the ones who walk or bike to work. In other words, fitness contributes to wanting to walk to work; nevertheless, the reverse might also be true.

Prior research has found that those countries having the highest levels of walking and biking also have the lowest levels of obesity. Nevertheless, little research has done to examine the health of Americans who walk or bike to work. The new study may be the first large US study of health and commuting.

Many cities in United States, workplaces are separated from homes that lengthen commutes. However, cities like Portland, Oregon, that build bike paths have higher rates of cycling. Meanwhile, companies can provide showers, changing areas and secure bike parking to encourage active commuting.

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