Walking, cycling, skateboarding – it’s always healthy, but what’s the catch?
Having a job is great. It helps you pay your bills, gives you a purpose in life, provides you with a group of people to socialize with, educates you, challenges your ideas... However, a lot of jobs are extremely stationary. Every day, you sit at your desk and look at your screen, taking fewer breaks than you really need.
The consequence? An unhealthy lifestyle that leads to various physical and mental problems.
Although there are people that make time in their schedule to regularly exercise by going to the gym or joining a recreational sports group, the truth remains that many more are unwilling to sacrifice whatever free time they have on something that (health benefits excluded) has nothing to do with their professional growth.
At CLARA, we have a solution for this: cycling or walking to work. Not only is it exercise, but it's also a mode of transportation that keeps us and our community healthier. We’ve written about urban cycling and commuter safety before, so you can see we’re fans of the motor-less traffic substitutes.
Naturally, it's not always possible to cycle. Walking is sometimes an alternative, but there are occasions when a bus or a car are necessary. We're not against motor vehicles – we just prefer combining the useful with the useful and making our commute our gym.
With an increase of flexible work locations (working from home, outsourcing) and work hours, it shouldn’t be too difficult to exercise more. Any kind of physical activity that you introduce into your daily life is a good thing. A few years back, scooting and skateboarding was the norm. Nowadays, there are even desks that incorporate a stationary bike or a treadmill, but those are few and far between.
Why should you aim to be physically active?
Simple. Physical activity is one of the keys to health.
For one thing, exercise helps you build muscle. While this may not be overly visible, it does help you increase your stamina and energy levels. Muscle mass is also beneficial for losing weight in case that is one of your goals.
For another, cycling in particular is a very low impact exercise. You may prefer walking or running, but those are exercises where your injury risk is higher due to the weight born by your joints. Don’t let that stop you, by all means – but do know that a bike might be a good way to keep your joints healthy and not overwhelmed.
Regular cycling improves balance and spacial coordination. Part of that is due to cycling itself, but a greater part is due to the nature of commuter cycling – the set path, the reactions to other traffic participants, the necessity of quick adapting...
Your heart benefits from exercise, both as a muscle and as an organ. Working out increases the levels of blood oxygen, helping you become stronger and more resilient to disease. A healthy heart can help lengthen your life and improve your life quality, both of which are good goals.
Recently, studies have been showing that benefits of exercise grow with age. Various diseases (eg. diabetes, osteoporosis, bronchitis) can be systematically reduced using certain activities, as long as they are okayed by a doctor. You don’t want to aggravate a condition by doing the wrong thing! Exercise is a certain amount of stress for the body, so you need to know your limits and make sure you don’t cross them. Monitor your responses and don’t push yourself too hard – getting up a few minutes earlier is much healthier than cycling too fast, resulting in an injury.
If a healthy body isn’t your goal, then aim for a healthy mind.
Lots of reports show that exercise reduces stress levels and promotes relaxation. This is positive for both employers and employees: a happy, relaxed workforce creates a happy atmosphere. Concentration soars, great things are done – we’ve witnessed it ourselves, as we went from an idea of a smart vest to an actual product that (in our opinion) aims to save lives and improve lifestyles.
Research has shown that exercise expands brainpower, improving mental tests, controlling issues like ADD and even staves off Alzheimer’s disease. This is a result of the increase in blood flow and oxygen to the brain – a strengthening solution whose effects can be very potent.
A lot of people see the commute as a competition. They want to switch to running or walking, but also see result of the exercise immediately. This way of thinking can be harmful, as it causes rash decisions and lack of foresight.
Your commute should be seen as an opportunity. It’s not an obligation – it’s a chance to mix physical activity into your daily mix, doing good to your body and mind. Like we said before, it shouldn’t be torture, but an enjoyable exercise that you approach carefully.
Some precautions should be a lesson from primary school:
- Wear the right clothes and shoes for exercise. Constricting clothes, too-loose clothes or uncomfortable shoes can be hazardous.
- Make sure you warm-up and stretch. This can mean starting off slowly and increasing in speed or doing a set of exercises before you go on your way. Either way, your body will thank you.
- Stay hydrated! Your body needs to have enough water to cool it down, especially during hotter weather.
At CLARA, we also like to put emphasis on safety measures that have to do with the nature of your exercise - for example, wearing a helmet or elbow guards during cycling.
If you are in a situation of decreased visibility (dawn or dusk, weather conditions, crowds), safety measures should include making sure you are seen. Turn on your bike lights and pay attention to the flow of the traffic. Wear reflective details – our CLARA vest has reflective strips on it, so you stand out even when it is not lit. It makes a world of difference.
Staying safe during your commute won’t always be easy, or possible – the pros and cons are subjective, but we hope this text will help you make the right decision for you.
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