Integrative Nutrition Blog

New Study Shows Walking or Biking to Work Increases Happiness

September 15, 2014

How do you get to work every day?

Do you lace up your walking shoes, clip on your helmet, or buckle up your seatbelt?

It might seem like a small choice, but this one part of your daily routine could be having a huge impact on your overall well-being.

A new study out of England shows that those who walk or bike to work experience mental benefits and have higher levels of happiness than those who drive. The ten-year study analyzed information from nearly 18,000 commuters, who were each assigned a well-being score based on their responses to questions about things like feelings of worthlessness or unhappiness, sleepless nights, or being unable to face problems.

The results are pretty remarkable, showing that those who walked or biked to work report consistently better well-being than car commuters (drivers had a 13% higher likelihood of feeling like they were constantly under strain and unable to concentrate!). What’s more, the longer the car commute, the worse people felt, whereas longer walks to work led to greater well-being.

So what’s behind these findings? What does walking or biking give people that driving doesn’t?

Well for one thing, an active commute means that you’re getting more physical activity in your day, which has been shown to provide powerful physical and mental benefits (and that’s why it’s step 10 in the 12 Steps to Better Health in Integrative Nutrition’s curriculum).

But there are also the benefits of walking to work that can’t be studied or quantified. The chance to connect with nature, to listen to your favorite music, even to try walking meditation. These are all soul-nourishing examples of Primary Foods, the essential components of our well-being that too many of us neglect. Walking or biking to work gives people a built-in part of their daily routine that’s just for them, providing an opportunity to tap into the needs that might otherwise go unmet.

Luckily for those who have been commuting in a car for years, the study also showed that making the switch from driving to walking or biking led to significant improvements in mental health as well. And if walking or biking to work isn’t an option for you, all isn’t lost: try taking in a walk during your lunch hour, or a meditating for 5 minutes before you get in the car, or listening to an engaging audio book while you drive. There are countless ways to get your Primary Foods, regardless of how you get to work.

How do you feed your soul each day? Tell us your tips for getting the Primary Foods you need in the comments section below.

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