A new study finds that in addition to cardiovascular and physical health benefits, pedaling to work can help reduce stress and improve work performance.
Researchers from Concordia’s John Molson School of Business (JMSB) compared how different modes of commuting — cycling, driving a car, and taking public transport — affected stress and mood at work.
Drs. Stéphane Brutus and Alexandra Panaccio, and Roshan Javadian, M.Sc., discovered cycling to work is a good way to have a good day. “Employees who cycled to work showed significantly lower levels of stress within the first 45 minutes of work than those who traveled by car,” said Brutus, the lead author.
Interestingly, the study did not find that riding to work made any difference on mood.
The research appears the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.
For the study, investigators collected data from 123 employees at Autodesk, an information technology company in Old Montreal, using a web-based survey. Respondents replied to questions about their mood, perceived commuting stress, and mode of travel.
The survey differentiated between perceived stress and mood, a more transient state affected by personality traits and emotions.
The study only assessed answers from respondents who had completed the questionnaire within 45 minutes of arriving at work. This was done to get a more “in-the-moment” assessment of employees’ stress and mood.
Brutus notes that this time specification was the study’s major innovation.
“Recent research has shown that early morning stress and mood are strong predictors of their effect later in the day,” he said. “They can shape how subsequent events are perceived, interpreted, and acted upon for the rest of the day.”
He adds that the time specification ensured a more precise picture of stress upon arrival at work. Retrospective assessments can be colored by stressors that occur later in the workday.
“There are relatively few studies that compare the affective experiences of cyclists with those of car and public transport users,” said Brutus, an avid cyclist himself. “Our study was an attempt to address that gap.”
At the same time, the team confirmed previous research that found that cyclists perceived their commute as being less stressful than those who traveled by car.
Cycling has been shown to be a relatively inexpensive mode of transportation and a good form of physical activity.
A 2015 study from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy found that cycling could help reduce CO2 emissions from urban passenger transportation by 11 percent by 2050. It could also save society US $24 trillion globally between 2015 and 2050.
Brutus pointed out that only around six percent of Americans or Canadians cycled to work, although the number is growing. However, the countries still significantly lag behind many European countries.
There is potential for public policymakers to seize on this, he said.
“With growing concerns about traffic congestion and pollution, governments are increasingly promoting non-motorized alternative modes of transport, such as walking and cycling. I can only hope that further studies will follow our lead and develop more precise and deliberate research into this phenomenon.”
Source: Concordia University