Sitting in your car is bad for your physical health… and mental health too. 

Sitting by yourself, in a car, in traffic for what feels like hours on end each day – sounds like great fun, doesn’t it? Throw in getting cut off a few times, road works, impatient / irate fellow drivers and you have a recipe for what’s known as Commuter or Traffic Stress. Why do we do it to ourselves?

Results from a Canadian study published in 2015 show that “The stress of commuting has serious public health and social implications…driving is the most stressful mode of transportation when compared to others” (Legrain et al, Oct. 2015).

Add this to work (in 2014, 45% of Australians reported being stressed about work) and general stress levels, and it’s not a great picture for our mental or physical health. In better news, it’s well known what can help: physical activity.

In the interests of lowering stress, improving your fitness and upping the fun factor, we can strongly recommend making the shift to an active commute. Cycling is just one option, but it’s quick, easy and we think it’s awesome (no bias here!).

Not only can you lower your pre and post work stress levels, and help reduce traffic congestion (you’re welcome, fellow commuters), but the choice to actively commute has even more far-reaching benefits.

Yet another study, from NZ this time, found that human-powered commuter trips “…incur negligible greenhouse gas and air pollution costs, incorporate physical activity into people’s daily lives, and cost little (potentially increasing equitable access to jobs)” (Macmillan et al, 2014). Sounds like a winner!

The same study modelled the impact of implementing best practice cycle-friendly infrastructure and policy, and estimated that the benefits to public health expenditure would be massive, running in the tens of dollars for every dollar spent on infrastructure – mainly due to increased levels of physical activity.

So, have a think about it before you jump in the car – choosing your bike instead is a great option, and Spring is the perfect time to start: sunshine, fresh air and comfortable temperatures make for great conditions.

Bike SA and The Motor Accident Commission offer FREE, 30 minute workplace presentations to help make your commute a safe one – take a look here!