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The Healthy Way to Get to Work by Laura Bond

Want to know the healthiest way to get to work?

It’s simple – all you have to do is look at cycling statistics and obesity levels in Europe.

In the UK, only 4% of people say they cycle every day as opposed to 30% in Denmark, and 43% per cent in the Netherlands.

Now lets look at obesity levels.

In the UK 26% of the adult population are obese, compared to 13.4% in Denmark, and just 11.4% in the Netherlands.

Even though that might not be the whole story, it’s hard to argue with those numbers.

Of course unlike our Danish and Dutch counterparts, we Brits don’t have the luxury of dedicated cycling paths, which would make the morning journey from kitchen table to office desk so much safer.

However, there’s good news. Free and subsidised cycle training – with an emphasis on road safety – is now available for adults who live, work or study in London. You can visit your local borough’s website for further details, or contact Bikeability.

So beyond your waistline, what other benefits might you get from jumping on your bike?

Denmark was recently declared – by the United Nations no less – to be the happiest country on earth. Could cycling be a part of it?

Studies certainly show that exercise outside boosts endorphins, relieves stress and improves memory and attention span by up to 20% percent.

Elissa El Hadj, founder of FORM Studios in Notting Hill, cycles to work to boost circulation and get her brain firing:

‘With a long and full day ahead, it’s a great way to get my exercise in and it cuts my travel time in half, as I’m not at the mercy of traffic,’ says El Hadj, ‘It’s economical and I’m a proponent of saving the planet and, therefore, less carbon emissions.’

As a fitness expert – FORM’s classes combine strength training and pilates with HIIT METabolic interval cardio conditioning – El Hadj is better qualified than most to comment on the benefits of getting off our seat:

‘Being sedentary is detrimental to the core, spine and hips, so even a brisk walk in the morning is a great way to wake up the body. You’ll work up a little bit of a sweat, clear the mind, think of ideas, people watch, and soak up some natural vitamin D.’ El Hadj occasionally walks her bulldog Alfie to the studio, so he gets a workout too.

However with the average commute to work getting longer it means for many people, the tube, train and car is the only viable option.

So how can you make the daily journey more healthy for your body and mind?

On the Tube – Get Off Early

It’s tempting to stay in the carriage as long as possible in winter, but a brisk walk in the cold will help you lose weight. Chilly weather triggers the body to convert white fat into calorie-burning brown fat according to new research from The University of California, Berkley. And to avoid picking up the winter flu on the underground, try inhaling olbas oil, a mixture of powerful plant oils including clove oil, eucalyptus, juniper berry and cajuput: ‘It’s a really good antibacterial,’ says Dr Simone Laubscher PhD, a Harley Street nutritional doctor.

In the Car – Open the Windows

Research at Queensland University of Technology in Austraia found that spending 90 minutes in a sealed vehicle with someone who has flu gives you a 99.9 % chance of contracting the virus. But your risk falls to 20% if you open the windows. You may not be breathing in alpine air but we still think fresh is best.

On the Train – Get Some Headspace

Feel the zen with this mindfulness app. Developed by Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist Monk,  headspace has been downloaded more than one million times in 150-plus countries, and fans include Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma Watson and Davina McCall. It’s now even available in the air: Virgin Atlantic offers a Headspace channel on inflight entertainment packages.

Laura Bond is a journalist and qualified health coach and this month’s guest editor of Honestly Healthy.

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