ESB Professional/ShutterstockPeople who cycle to work tend to feel less stress at the start of their day, and that can shape how the entire rest of the day goes (this is how you can tell if your commute is making you sick), finds a new study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.
Researchers asked 123 employees at an information technology company in Montreal, to rate their stress levels and mood after cycling, driving, or taking public transportation to work. Inspired by existing research demonstrating that early morning stress and mood shape how people feel the rest of the day, the researchers captured the employees’ mood in the first 45 minutes after arriving at the office. The cyclists had much lower levels of stress, the researchers discovered, especially compared to drivers. However, there wasn’t a big difference in mood.
Lead study author, Stéphane Brutus, PhD, says that walking to work is another way to reduce morning stress levels, but the research team chose to focus on cycling because it’s “more physically and psychologically demanding,” and therefore had greater potential to demonstrate an “upside, both physically and psychologically.” The demands of cycling might offer more stress release and better concentration, according to Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, a stress management, health and nutrition expert and author. Dr. Dean also suggests that it may be that “the speed of cycling compared to walking increases the necessity to engage your senses, balance yourself as you steer and maneuver,” which could also help decrease stress.
Or, it could be that biking “taps into one of our first experiences of freedom as children,” suggests Erin Haugen, PhD, a licensed sports psychologist and bike commuter in North Dakota. In addition, she notes, “We see the world from a different point of view when riding our bike. There’s something about feeling the air in our face that helps us be more mindful of our experience, and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest mindfulness reduces stress levels.” Dr. Haugen also points out that we can cover a lot more ground more quickly by cycling, and it may be the only physical activity one does during the day. Therefore, you start the day with something good for you, and it’s bound to get your day off to a positive start.
Inspired to get biking? Check out our list of the most bike-friendly cities in each state.