Cycling is more popular than ever. Recent figures suggest that 15,000 cyclists pass through my part of London during the rush hour each morning. Despite the seemingly huge numbers, this amounts to just 2.5% of all commutes made in the capital.
A new study suggests that not only might cycling to work help the environment and your wallet, it may also ensure your work life is much less stressful than your non-cycling colleagues.
The study analyzed data taken from a pool of around 18,000 commuters from across England. They were asked questions on things such as their general wellbeing, how happy they felt, whether they were valued and their sleep levels over the past few weeks. The answers to these questions culminated in an overall wellbeing score for each participant.
Cycling for the win
The data from the survey revealed the benefits of exercise to our wellbeing. It emerged that employees who cycled to work had much higher levels of wellbeing than those who drove in their car. In particular, motorists reported that they were much more likely to be under constant strain, with a subsequent inability to concentrate.
These findings remained consistent, even once the researchers took account of things such as household income and the overall health of the participant, all of which may contribute to our wellbeing.
The hypothesis was also confirmed by the boost to wellbeing experienced by employees that made the shift between driving to cycling during the course of the study.
"These results appear to suggest that avoiding car driving may be beneficial to well-being," the researchers stated.
The benefits of exercise
The findings from the research are consistent with a plethora of other studies that highlight the positive impact exercise has on our mood and general wellbeing. The researchers suggest, however, that the impacts of cycling to work should be considered more seriously by policy makers and planners when evaluating the costs and benefits of transport initiatives.
Interestingly, the data also appeared to suggest that commuting to work by public transport was less stressful than driving your own vehicle, although still not as stress free as cycling.
"You might think that things like disruption to services or crowds of commuters [on public transportation] might have been a cause of considerable stress," the researchers declare. "But as buses or trains also give people time to relax, read [and/or] socialize — and there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station — it appears to cheer people up."
Spreading cycling amongst the workforce
So, with such clear benefits of cycling to work for employee wellbeing, what can managers do to promote it amongst the workforce?
A study from last year suggests that the very act of cycling to work can become contagious. It found that if you have colleagues that cycle to work, or indeed a spouse that does so, then you are much more likely to do so yourself.
So maybe the key is for the boss to make the first move and don their cycle helmet. Do you cycle to work yourself? How does it make you feel?
Let me know in the comments below.