Aug 16, 2009

Commute for Better Health

Want to do good and feel good? Get active. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself and the environment. Biking or walking to work instead of using your car, for example, can lower your carbon footprint, save money on gas, help you lose weight, and teach you a healthier way of living.

Say your bike commute burns about 500 calories a day (about one hour of moderate biking for a 150-pound person). If you commute five days a week, you’ll burn 2500 calories—or enough to lose as many as two pounds a month with no changes in your diet.

If that’s not incentive enough, consider this: Riding a bike to work may make you eligible for a $20 monthly—up to $240 a year—tax credit. (A bill is now in the works to increase this to $40 a month.) Employers give you the credit in pre-tax dollars and in return can deduct the expense from their federal taxes. The money can be used toward a new bike, on repairs for an old one, or for parking and storage. Find out if other employees bike to work and talk to your boss about starting a reimbursement program. It may inspire some of your colleagues to leave their cars behind and join you in the bike lane.

Get your friends and family involved too. Currently, only about 15% of kids walk or bike to school. Work with officials in your community to make it safer and easier for more children to ride their bikes. Demand designated bike lanes in your city and coordinate shifts with other parents to chaperone trips to and from school or soccer practice.

For a really eco-friendly group activity, organize an outing for parents and kids to walk around a beach, lake, or park while carrying bags and picking up trash. Reward the team that collects the most garbage by day’s end.

Small changes at home can help as well. Tackle an out-of-control lawn or plant some flowers in your yard. Mowing and gardening can burn hundreds of calories an hour. Start off slowly and just enjoy being outside. Unplug your DVD player, turn off that video game, and burn some of your own energy by taking a walk or playing catch. Every minute you spend being physically active instead of using up electricity on your computer or TV improves your health—and the planet’s. You can miss The Price Is Right a few mornings a week to do something good for yourself and the environment.

Some gyms and college campuses are taking the green-health idea even further. At the University of Oregon, 20 elliptical machines now generate a portion of the electricity for the buildings that house them. The amount of power the workout equipment produces is small, but at the very least, it’s a step in the right direction.

courtesy of Parade Magazine
by Michael O'Shea
published: 08/16/2009

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