Editor’s note: The Vermont Bike Challenge, which runs May 1 to Aug. 31 and is part of the National Bike Challenge, encourages Vermonters to pedal more often to promote wellness and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Join a UVM Medical Center team or start a team of your own at nationalbikechallenge.org.

By Evelyn Sikorski and Barbara Liberty, RN

One of the main reasons people choose to ride a bike is for health and environmental benefits. Bicycling to work is great for your overall health and well-being. Many of us would love to drop “just a few more pounds” or increase our activity with our family and friends.  Commuting to work by bike or using a bike to run errands reduces pollution and also reduces oil and gas use, which has environmental benefits and can also save money.

Try biking every day to see what kind of improvement you can make in your overall well-being:

  • Three hours of biking per week reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke by 50 percent.
  • Women who bike at least 30 minutes per day have a lower risk of breast cancer.
  • Adolescents who bike are 48 percent less likely to be overweight as adults.
  • Studies show that riding your bicycle to work can increase your cardiovascular fitness by 3 to 7 percent.
  • Biking home from work gives you time to exercise your mind – decompress, think things through and shake it off – while allowing you to exercise your body and burn calories.
  • Biking can be used as a way to maintain your weight and tone your body as you age.

Biking to and from work is exercise built right into your work day. Instead of driving four miles in a time of about 12 minutes, you might choose to ride your bike instead, which would probably take 20 minutes. Sure, you spent an extra eight minutes traveling to work, but you gained 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise that you otherwise would not have received.

Did you know that if you cycle at a steady speed you can burn about 300 calories per hour? If you cycle for 30 minutes every day, you could burn 11 pounds of fat in a year. Bike a little more frequently and watch the pounds come off easier.

After walking, bicycling is probably one of the easiest ways to exercise. Typically, people learn the skill as a young child. You know the saying – once you learn to ride a bicycle, you never forget! Cycling makes the heart pound in a steady manner, which helps improve cardiovascular fitness.

Bicycling uses the largest muscle groups and raises the heart rate to benefit stamina and fitness. In addition, cycling improves general muscle tone gradually, with little risk of over exercise or strain. Leg muscles are strengthened and this is great for the mobility of your hips and legs.

Exercise in general has been shown to decrease anxiety and stress levels, and bicycling is a fun way to exercise alone or with friends and family.  After a long day at the office, hop on your bicycle and ride the tension out. Relax your mind and you can enjoy the rest of your evening feeling calm and productive at home.

About the Vermont Bike Challenge

The Vermont Bike Challenge is open to everyone over age 18, including the UVM Medical Center employees. Every kind of riding counts, from commuting to work a couple of days a week to taking a spin on the bike path on the weekends.  You can team up with co-workers in your department, friends in your neighborhood, your weekend riding buddies, or people anywhere across the country.

The UVM Medical Center Wellness Program and CATMA are helping to promote the Vermont Bike Challenge and encourage the UVM Medical Center employees and their families to participate. The Vermont Bike Challenge is co-presented by Local Motion, the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition, and the Green Mountain Bicycle Club. For more information, visit VTBikeChallenge.org.

Evelyn Sikorski manages the UVM Medical Center’s Health Management, Wellness and EAP programs. Barbara Liberty, RN, leads the Corporate Health program at the UVM Medical Center.

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