Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the main sources of stress in the United States is work. But according to new research, there may be a simple way to alleviate workplace stress: cycling.
Researchers from Concordia University in Canada found that individuals who cycled to work reported feeling less stressed, compared with people who traveled to work by car.
Lead study author Stéphane Brutus, of the John Molson School of Business at Concordia, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.
Excessive workloads, office conflict, and poor pay are just some of the factors that can contribute to workplace stress, and it seems that many of us are victims.
According to the American Psychological Association, a 2012 survey revealed that 65 percent of U.S. adults report work as a major source of stress, and more than a third of people in the country report chronic stress as a result of work.
What is more, only 36 percent of U.S. workers who experience work-related stress say that their employer offers sufficient support to help manage their stress.
The new study, however, suggests that by switching from driving to cycling for the work commute, employees could help to lower stress levels themselves.
Reduced stress for cyclists
To reach their findings, Brutus and colleagues used a web-based survey to collect information from 123 adults who worked at an organization called Autodesk, a software company based in Ontario, Canada.
The survey asked about employees' mode of travel to work (whether they commuted to work using a bike, car, or method of public transport), their perceived stress levels, and their perceived mood.
Each employee was asked to complete the survey within 45 minutes of arriving at work in the morning.
"Recent research has shown that early morning stress and mood are strong predictors of their effect later in the day," explains Brutus. "They can shape how subsequent events are perceived, interpreted, and acted upon for the rest of the day."
Compared with employees who traveled to work by car, those who cycled to work reported much lower stress levels within 45 minutes of arrival.
However, the researchers note that there were no differences in stress levels between employees who traveled to work by car and those who commuted using public transport.
Additionally, mode of travel appeared to have no impact on the mood of employees.
Cycling and public health
The study does not explain why cyclists reported feeling less stressed than drivers, but previous research suggests that it may be down to the physical activity involved in cycling, which is known to lower stress.
But stress relief is not the only benefit of cycling; the researchers point to a study from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, which found that cycling could reduce CO2 emissions by 11 percent.
The researchers hope that their study, along with previous research documenting the benefits of cycling, will help to inform public health policies in relation to transport.
"With growing concerns about traffic congestion and pollution, governments are increasingly promoting non-motorized alternative modes of transport, such as walking and cycling," says Brutus.
"I can only hope that further studies will follow our lead and develop more precise and deliberate research into this phenomenon."