Want an easy, low-cost way to stay slim, avoid serious illness yet also spare the air from pollution? Keep the car parked and hop on your bike for quick errands, a study published Wednesday says.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin in the US recently gathered data on obesity, health effects from pollution, and air pollution due to automobiles in 11 cities in the Midwestern US. They found that if the residents ran half of their short-distance errands (about a 25-minute bike ride) on a bike rather than by car, 1,100 deaths would be avoided each year and $7 billion would be saved in reduced health-care costs.
The results were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
While the study didn't examine the health benefits of walking, the researchers certainly aren't ruling that out. Even taking the bus or a train will add about 20 minutes of "decent" walking to your trip, noted Jonathan Patz, a physician and co-author of the study, who heads the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
What about winter? In cold winter climates, walking or cycling when the mercury dips is a risky maneuver, but the researchers noted that you can still reap overall health benefits by biking during the warmer months and using your car for errands in the dead of winter.
Another new study published Monday also supports biking or walking to work over commuting by car, which researchers said could add extra stress to your life and contribute to poor sleep, ill health, and even increased missed work days. That study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, involved data from 21,000 people ages 18 to 65 who live in Sweden and worked full-time.
If you're new to cycling in the winter, it's a good idea to brush up on bicycle basics before hitting the road. For tips on prepping your bike for the winter ahead, read Wired's How-To Wiki page.