Healthy Commuting - Shrinking Waistlines, Expanding Minds, Breathing Easier
What's good for your wallet, your safety and the environment is also good for your well-being. What is clean commuting doing for the physical and mental health of Georgians?
1. Shrinking Waistlines
We're starting to see more stories come in lately from commuters who have found they can turn their commutes into workout regimens, shedding pounds and improving their physical health. It's a timely topic given the ongoing discussion about healthcare and the fact that Georgia ranks 14th in obesity among adults (and 3rd for children).
But for the die-hard bicycle commuters and the folks who strap on their walking shoes, it seems to go deeper. One walking commuter tells us she's lost 70 pounds via her daily stroll to the office, and in the process her first choice now is always to walk when practical. And a bicycling commuter describes how he "went from 250 lbs (heaviest) to 185 lbs on a 6' 2" body frame. My doctor says my health report looks like that of an athlete." Another rider tells us bicycling to work "allows me to take in the beauty of the city that sometimes we overlook as we hurriedly rush by in our cars. It also allows me time to plan out my day and get energized before I hit the office."
Employers and property managers are increasingly responding to the needs of their bicycling and walking employees, too, through programs like Commuter Choice and with deals arranged via nearby fitness clubs to provide access to showers. RideSmart even makes a "Bike Buddy" service available to help bicycling commuters in Atlanta find riding partners.
2. Expanding Minds
Commuting and wellness can be about brains just as much as it can be about braun. We explored in the last post the many reasons drive-alone commuters shouldn't try to think about anything other than the task at hand when they're driving. But many commuters are stretching their thinking and getting tasks done when they get to ride along in the passenger seat. A carpooler recently described all the things she accomplishes on her ride: grocery list, Sudoku puzzle, view news on her mobile phone, read books, etc. What activities do you do from the passenger seat to wake up your synapses and neurons?
The Clean Air Schools program is also broadening the minds of thousands of Georgia students in elementary, middle and high schools with a new and expanded library of about three-dozen air quality lesson plans. With emphasis on science, social studies, math and geography, these new resources could not arrive at a better time, as Georgia educators must work harder to make ends meet.
3. Helping Us All Breathe Easier
Fortunately for those living in metro ATL - the 9th worst city for asthmatics - this year's smog season has been among the most forgiving since 2005 (so far ... knock on wood). However, new studies are finding that long-term exposure to ground-level ozone can affect lifespan, trigger asthma attacks in children (apparently, traffic and stressed out parents have a lot to do with it) and even impact brain development in babies.
It's encouraging to see more schools in Georgia become part of the No-Idling program offered through The Clean Air Campaign's Clean Air Schools initiative as the new school year kicks off. This program, now in it's second year of support from The UPS Foundation, boasts more than 100 participating schools who are working to reduce air pollution on campus by encouraging bus drivers and parents to shut off their engines while waiting to pick up students.
Do you clean commute for the health benefits? Tell us how using alternatives to driving alone has improved your body and mind.