May is National Bike Month, and Monday, May 11, marks the beginning of Bike to Work Week. The big day is Friday, May 15: Bike to Work Day. Cities, organizations and individuals all over the country will celebrate through organized events and solitary rides.
If, like me, you're lucky enough to work from home, then biking to work isn't necessary. Conversely, if you live a long way from your workplace, biking to work may not be feasible.
But for the more than half of the U.S. population that lives five miles or less from their workplace, biking to work should be a consideration—at least once a year, if not once a week or more!
Sure, there may be concerns: safe biking routes, dressing appropriately for work, what to do in bad weather, where to park your bike at work, what to do if you have to go out during the day, how to drop off the kids … it won't work all the time for everyone.
But, is it worth serious consideration? Definitely!
The League of American Bicyclists originated Bike to Work Day in 1956, and it's stuck around for more than half a century because it's a worthwhile idea. The American Medical Association even endorsed Bike to Work Day to encourage active transportation. And various cities mark the day in various ways. Past observations have included:
- "Energizer Stations" set up around the San Francisco Bay Area to provide food and coffee to bike commuters (even the mayor and board of supervisors participate by biking to City Hall).
- Free breakfasts, donated by local businesses, for participating bikers in Boulder, Co.
- New bike racks unveiled in Bethesda, Md.
- Free tune-ups and balaclavas to Chicago, Ill., participants.
These events may make the day more fun, but even if your city does nothing to entice you, there are still plenty of reasons to participate.
Here are some of the health benefits you can gain from biking:
- Increased cardiovascular fitness
- Increased muscle strength and flexibility
- Improved joint mobility
- Decreased stress
- Improved posture and coordination
- Stronger bones
- Decreased body fat
- Prevention or management of disease
- Reduced anxiety and depression
And experts say it only takes two to four hours a week to improve your health through cycling. Is that about how long it would take you to bike to and from work several days a week?
Sure, there are also economic savings and environmental benefits to biking, but it's a great thing to do for health reasons alone! And it's easy. Most of us know how to ride a bike, even those like me who aren't especially coordinated.
Other advantages of cycling include:
- Cycling is low impact with fewer injuries than in many other types of exercise.
- It's a good all-around muscle workout.
- Cycling increases your strength, stamina and aerobic fitness.
- You determine your intensity level.
- It's a fun way to get fit, especially if you enjoy being outdoors and like the change of scenery.
- It makes good use of your time, because it replaces more sedentary activities like driving or riding a bus or just sitting around like a couch potato.
What about those of us who can't or won't bike to work (it's a short walk from my bedroom to my home office)?
I plan to celebrate bike month by dusting off my bike and taking more rides around the neighborhood. It's a nice way to switch up my exercise routine and enjoy some fresh air.
I've never been a big fan of long-distance or racing rides, but I love the idea of using my bike for errands, like a quick stop at the grocery store or farmers market. Just grab a backpack and a bike lock, and I'm good to go. There's something very healthy and freeing about pedaling through town and not worrying about traffic jams.
And it's another "random act of fitness" to keep me moving throughout my day. Even at my relatively slow speed on our flat terrain, I can burn about 200 calories during a 30-minute bike ride. (Calculate your calories here.) What's not to love?
Let us know how you plan to observe National Bike Month!