According to recent research, cycling to work can reduce your risk of early death by 40%. But if avoiding an early demise isn’t enough to get you on a bike, there’s also a more immediate benefit – if you commute by bike, you will feel less stressed and be more productive at work. A study last week in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that, for the first 45 minutes of work, employees who cycled in had less stress than those who travelled by car. And how stressed you feel early in the morning is apparently a strong predictor for how you will feel throughout the day. The authors say it “can shape how subsequent events are perceived, interpreted and acted upon”.

The solution

Given that cycle commutes in cities can be blighted by air pollution and heavy traffic, that there is a reduction in stress levels by biking to work may seem counterintuitive. Or it could be that other commutes are even worse. The study was done in Montreal on 123 employees at an information technology company and it was small – only 25 were cyclists. This is actually more than the country’s national average – only 6% of Canadians cycle to work. In Britain about 4% of commutes are on bikes. In contrast, in Copenhagen, which has prioritised cycling so that no car or bus can travel faster through the city than a bike, about 40% of commuter trips are by bike.

Even allowing for injuries and pollution, the risk-versus-benefit analysis for cycling comes down firmly in favour of pedalling as much as possible. A study of 264,377 people from the UK Biobank who were asked to record how they commuted found that during the five years of the study, those who did their commute by bike were less likely than any other commuters to die of anything. Walking to work reduced heart disease but not dying from cancer, and benefits were only seen at more than six miles a week. Studies show that, while cars are the favourite way to commute because they provide freedom and control, driving in heavy traffic and having to concentrate is stressful. Public transport may be even more stressful because it can be boring and you can’t control it. Think Southern Rail. Research shows that cycling wins out because commutes by bike are rated more interesting and exciting. Cycling isn’t always feasible – but some research suggests a third of people who drive to work live within a comfortable cycling distance. And the benefits of a cycling commute are also going to be felt after the journey home.