It seems obvious, but it’s always nice to have science support you: people who bicycle to work are healthier than people who don’t, because their commute is helping them meet their minimum recommended exercise allowance for the day – all while doing something they would have done anyways.
One of the reasons I’ve become pretty passionate about bike commuting is because I think we’ve created a culture where we’ve promoted being healthy is this massive, time-consuming and money-consuming undertaking. Join a gym, sign up for crossfit, take on extensive supplements as part of your diet, etc., etc. I find this problematic for a couple of reasons:
1) It’s just unnecessarily expensive and time consuming, when it’s incredibly easy to just build healthy habits into every day life. And, as this article suggests, making a change like this has so many broader effects: more people walking and biking for transportation impacts air quality, public health, the local economy, traffic deaths, neighborhood revitalization, and on and on.
2) A culture where health has to be purchased as a separate product, and where the physical structure of communities are such that average people cannot safely bike, walk, or play, is yet another barrier for the poor and near-poor. Folks living in poverty already have the health deck stacked against them in terms of the food they tend to have access to and the money they have for basic health care. You then make it difficult or impossible for them to get physical activity in because their neighborhoods have no sidewalks, trails, bike lanes, or other infrastructure, you’ve taken away yet another choice for them to improve their lives in someway.
I respect all of my friends who are incredibly into sport-as-health, all the crossiftters and the mountain bikers and the endurance cyclists – but a real culture of health means integrating healthy behaviors into things we do every single day, to the point where it’s so boring that we don’t even notice it.