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Topics > Healthy Outlook > Bike Commute an Easier Route

Bike Commute an Easier Route


Published by Contra Costa Times

Posted on Tue., May 1, 2008
Dr. David Pepper

BICYCLING TO WORK may be easier than you think. You can't know until you try it.

I hear about so many obstacles: It will take too long. What about the stuff I need for work? I'm not in shape. I'll be sweaty when I get to work. My hair and clothes will be messed up. In fact, I've learned from commuting 40 miles from my home in Berkeley to the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez that all these concerns can be easily overcome.

Your bicycle commute will likely be quicker than you think, and you can combine bicycling with BART if the distances are too great.

If you are over 40, overweight, or take medicine for a chronic medical condition, you should discuss your plan with your doctor. You may need to gradually build up to biking to work if your commute involves hills.

There are new, lightweight saddlebags for the stuff you need for work. Or you can pull a featherweight trailer if necessary. Because of the breeze, I seldom sweat, but bringing some deodorant or a change of shirt is easy.

Your helmet will keep your hair in place, and biking doesn't usually mess up your clothes. You can always leave extra clothes at work just in case. The benefits are truly remarkable: I feel invigorated both when I get to work, and when I get home. There is none of the post-work blahs that seem to accompany and follow a drive home.

Exercise has been shown to be as or more effective than antidepressants such as Prozac. The long-term health benefits are also worth remembering. Exercise and weight loss help reduce heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

If you need an incentive to start, May 15 is "Ride Your Bike to Work Day" and a perfect time to give bicycling a try. Here are some tips on how to get started.

First, you need to get a bike and helmet. The bike doesn't have to be an expensive one to start, just comfortable and reliable. Don't neglect the helmet. Wearing a helmet can be the difference between a deadly head injury, and just brushing yourself off and continuing on your way.

Plot your course. The shortest route may not always be the best, especially if you're in a hilly area. This Web site can help you map out a route and check the altitude gain: www.mapmyride.com

Start out slow. Try biking once a week in the beginning; perhaps a casual Friday.

If the distance to your work discourages you, combine biking with public transportation. Using BART from Berkeley to Pleasant Hill, my 25-mile commute from Berkeley to Martinez takes about an hour and a half, with about 40 minutes of biking.

Useful Web sites include: www.chp.ca.gov/html/bicycleriding.html

For bicycle laws and safety tips: www.bayareabikes.org/btwd/

To calculate savings in gas and calories burned: www.ebbc.org.

This is the perfect time of year when the weather is nice and it's neither too hot nor too cold. Bicycling can make you feel good. Try it.

Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at theairdoctor@gmail.com. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.


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