EXEC HEALTH : Tour de workforce

What if I said there was an exercise that could simultaneously improve your health, fitness and wellbeing, save you money, and reduce your carbon footprint – all without expending an extra minute of your precious free time?
The name of this revolutionary multi-tasking exercise? Cycling, of course. When the benefits are spelled out it’s easy to see why cycling for fitness is being embraced by New Zealand professionals.
According to Sport & Recreation New Zealand (SPARC), cycling is the fastest growing recreational and sporting activity in New Zealand.
However, cycling is not just for keen networkers – its accessibility, low entry cost and low impact on the body make it easy for just about anyone to take part.
“Cycling is great low-impact exercise, and is often loved by those who have arthritis in the hips or knees, or who find walking or running too painful,” says physiotherapist Jenny Cooper, of Active Physio Albany.
Government guidelines recommend adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week to reduce the risk of, or improve outcomes for wide range of health conditions.
But despite the widely publicised message to ‘get moving’, the Ministry of Health’s most recent nationwide health survey found that nearly half of all New Zealand adults did not meet the definition of being regularly physically active.
It’s here that cycling offers solution. Commuting by cycle is an easy way to make exercise part of your weekday routine. During any one week, the SPARC survey found that 38 percent of adults who took part in cycling achieved more than 2.5 hours of moderate-to-vigorous activity through cycling alone.
What’s more, going by bike may prove to be faster than taking the car. Splitting the trip may be an option – take an earlier motorway exit, park the car and cycle the last 10km.
The Greater Wellington Regional Council’s interactive ‘Journey Planner’ website offers mapping tool which calculates vehicle cost, health cost and carbon emission savings of walking and cycling. Based on standard 2.2 litre car, it estimates cycling the 20 kilometre round trip from Lyall Bay to the City and back (via the harbour) three times week will save approximately 600kg in carbon emissions and $1800 in vehicle running costs per year. The same thrice-weekly trip would yield around $5000 in annual health savings, based on the costs of disease and early death that can be avoided with an active lifestyle.
The latest Kelly Global Workforce Index survey showed that 80 percent of Kiwi employees think their employer should assist them with having healthier lifestyle. With this in mind offer showers and bike storage facilities. With summer on the way, there’s no better time to jump on bike to see if cycling is the exercise for you.

Peter Tynan is chief executive of Southern Cross Health Society.

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