The cardio-commute: Can it save the world?

How would a doctor tell you to get around? The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment – a group of medical professionals who love the earth – came up with some things to consider. Here’s their prescription for a better commute.

Driving…

…is associated with weight-gain…
Each additional hour spent in a car per day means a 6% increase in your chances of obesity.
…which is bad for your health…
Obesity is associated with type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers and osteoarthritis
…and causes injuries…
Traffic injuries are the second leading cause of death for people age 5-29 worldwide.
…and air pollution…
Air pollution affects kids the most. It worsens childhood asthma.
Air pollution hurts adults too, and causes respiratory problems.
It’s a major contributor to greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
Climate change can lead to: more pollen, more allergies, more mosquitoes, more heat-related mortality. Plus flood, famine, population displacement and war.
…and costs a lot!
Keeping a car on the road is a pricey business, and all those roads come out of your taxes.
The downsides of driving lead to more costs to the healthcare system.

Try the Cardio-Commute! Walk, bike, skate or skip! Why?

Lose the love handles, and live longer.
Each kilometre walked per day cuts your chance of obesity by 5%.
Bike commuting can reduce the risk of premature mortality by approximately one third.
Exercise is good for your health.
Moderate activity (about half an hour a day, five days a week in adults) means less chance of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, breast cancer, and colon cancer.
Leads to fewer injuries.
There’s evidence of a “safety in numbers” effect: more bikes lead to fewer injuries to cyclists.
Reduces air pollution
Cyclists and pedestrians breathe less concentrated air pollution than drivers (as they’re farther away from the cars).
Despite the chances of air pollution and injury, the benefits of cycling are still 7 times greater than the risks.
Making small changes from car-use to bike-use can result in great reductions in greenhouse gases.
It’s cheap!
Biking and walking needs much less road space and infrastructure than driving.
It saves money for the healthcare system. The New Zealand Transport Agency estimated a savings equal to $3.50 per kilometre walked and $1.75 per kilometre cycled.

What do we need to get more people cardio-commuting?

What can you do?

Put down your keys and strap on your sneakers—lead by example and get other people to join you to help grow the flock of cardio-commuters.

Speak up—Ask schools, workplaces, colleagues, and elected officials to support the things that make your cardio-commute easier!

So, can cardio-commuting save the world?

Difficult to say—but if enough of us self-propel more often we’ll certainly be many steps closer to the world we want.

The World Health Organization has made a handy online tool so you can estimate the savings of walking and cycling: www.heatwalkingcycling.org.