/ Published 10:15 AM EST / Tamara George

Commute green to get lean

Want to get fit, lose weight and give your health an overall boost? Leave the car at home and get to work under your own steam.

Whether you cycle, walk, run, skate or skateboard, making your commute a form of exercise has all kinds of physical and mental benefits. New research supports the fat-burning, health-building properties of walking, cycling and other forms of people-powered transportation.

Two businessmen walking, one with a bicycle

Burn fat. If weight loss is your goal, cycling in particular is incredibly beneficial. For example, in this study, which was published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology,  a 53-year-old man who rode to work weighed 11 pounds less than one who drove, and a 52-year-old woman cyclist was 10 pounds lighter than her non-cycling counterpart. See how many calories you can burn with different exercises.

Get healthy. According to a study by the Imperial College, London, walking to work instead of driving reduces your likelihood of getting diabetes by 40% and cuts your risk of high blood pressure by 17%. And studies from Purdue University show that cycling to work (as little as 20 miles or 32 km round-trip) can cut your risk of heart disease by up to 50%!

Lose the stress. Any form of exercise will help your body cope with stress. But if that exercise is done outside, the benefits are even greater. (Here’s a whole post on why going outside is good for you.) Plus, by not having to deal with traffic, transit delays and train schedules, you don’t have to worry about being late or getting stuck – you’re in control of your own timeline.

What if you live too far away?
You can always pedal or walk for part of your commute instead of the whole thing. Park a few kilometers away from the office and walk, or ride your bike to the train station. Ditch the car whenever you can – it’s good for the planet, and great for you. In fact, just using public transportation instead of the car can help your health. People who take transit are less likely to be overweight than those who drive due to what this article calls “incidental physical activity” like walking to the bus, taking the stairs in the subway or running to catch your train.

Businesswoman walking with bicycle

A healthy habit
Making your commute a form of exercise is a great way to build fitness into your routine. When you do it every day, it’s easier to turn it into a habit (you can’t skip a ride home as easily as you can forego a trip to the gym).

May 30 is Bike to Work Day in the Toronto area
The air is warm, the days are long – there’s no better time to try riding in. Even if you don’t live in Toronto, consider it your “commute green to get lean” inspiration – and get moving! If you can’t ride on Monday, don’t worry. June is Bike Month, so there’s plenty of time to go green.