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Understanding more about the joys of active commutes

April 15, 2009 |  4:05 pm

Increasing numbers of people are commuting to work and school via foot and bicycle, finding that in the process, they're getting some good exercise.

Understanding the pros and cons of alternative commutes may ultimately pave the way for others to discover the joys of a healthy commute.

That was the idea behind surveys on active commuting, carried out by researchers at Kansas State University's Physical Activity and Public Health Laboratory. Their goals were to determine people's attitudes about walking and cycling commutes, and discover what might be keeping them from giving up their cars.

In one, about 27% of 375 residents (average age about 39) of a small Midwestern town walked or biked to work once or more per week. Those who were more ecologically inclined were more likely to ditch their cars, and more men than women were apt to choose alternative ways of commuting.

In another survey, 726 students, faculty members and staff of the university were queried about their campus commuting habits. A little less than half walked to school, and almost 18% biked at least once a week. Those over 25 were not as willing to walk or cycle to campus, and people who had more than a 20-minute trip by bike or foot were less likely to use those methods of transportation. Those who were more fit were also more likely to walk and bike to campus. Again, men and women who showed concern about the environment biked and walked more.

The surveys, which will be presented at upcoming medical conferences, may be helpful in figuring out how to present public health messages encouraging people to bike or walk, according to the researchers. For example, an eco-friendly message might reach those concerned about the environment.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times