Throw away the car keys and forget about the mass transit; get a bicycle and ride to work, suggest researchers.
Researchers from Concordia University in Canada found that cycling to work makes people feel less stressed, compared with traveling to work by car.
One of the main sources of stress in the UK, and perhaps in other parts of the world, is work. Therefore, the researchers suggest people change their habits of driving to work and choose cycling to work in order to lower their stress levels.
The study was led by Stephane Brutus, of the John Molson School of Business at Concordia.
The team recently reported their findings in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.
To reach their findings, the team collected data from 123 employees at Autodesk, a software company in Ontario, Canada, using a web-based survey.
Participants were asked to respond to questions about their perceived mood, perceived commuting stress and mode of travel to work (whether they commuted to work using a bike, car, or method of public transport).
However, the team only evaluated the questionnaires which were completed within 45 minutes of arriving at work. This was done to get a more precise picture of stress levels and mood upon arrival at work. If the answers were completed later, other stressors that occurred during the day could affect the results.
“Recent research has shown that early morning stress and mood are strong predictors of their effect later in the day,” explains Brutus.
“They can shape how subsequent events are perceived, interpreted, and acted upon for the rest of the day.”
The team found that cycling to work produced less stress levels. Within 45 minutes of arrival, employees who cycled to work reported much lower stress levels, compared with employees who traveled to work by car. [Read more Low-fat dairy linked to reduced depression risk, new study suggests]
The researchers, however, note that no differences in stress levels was observed between participants who traveled to work by car and those who traveled using public transport.
At the same time, employees’ mood were not affected by the mode of travel they used.
Why cycling to work produces less stress?
The study failed to explain why cyclists reported feeling less stressed than drivers, but according to previous research, it may be down to the physical activity involved in cycling, which is known to lower stress.
But it’s not just stress relief that cycling produces; the team point to a study from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, which found that cycling could reduce CO2 emissions by 11%.
Brutus hopes that public policy-makers should take advantage of the benefits of cycling to encourage more people to get on their bike.
“With growing concerns about traffic congestion and pollution, governments are increasingly promoting non-motorized alternative modes of transport, such as walking and cycling,” he says.
“I can only hope that further studies will follow our lead and develop more precise and deliberate research into this phenomenon.”