Since Earth Day is this month, this is a good time to think about the impact we have on our environment and what we can do to reduce that impact. The good news is there are ways we can “go green” that are good for us and our planet.
First, you can go green by replacing car trips with walking or cycling. Every mile you drive releases carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the environment. Additionally, spending time sitting in your car can have negative effects on your health and happiness. Walking or biking has no such negative effects on the environment and has important health benefits including improved fitness, weight control, and greater feelings of wellbeing. Despite the potential environmental and health benefits of replacing car trips with active transportation, 37 percent of Americans report not walking for transportation at all in a given week.
Obviously, walking or biking everywhere isn’t practical. But you could probably replace some car trips with active transportation. Most people commute less than 10 miles to work and nearly half of all car trips are less than three miles. Both are reasonable distances to bike or walk. If you have several places to go, you can always park in a central location and walk to each destination.
Replacing car trips with active transportation can also help you save green—money! When you add up the costs of purchasing a car, filling the gas tank, maintenance, and parking, driving is expensive. Walking or cycling, even if it involves taking public transportation for part of your trip, is almost always less expensive; this is true even when you factor in the cost of purchasing a bike. Even if it is impossible to replace all car trips with active transportation, choosing to walk or bike to some destinations can help you save some money on car and driving expenses.
Finally, you can literally “go green” when you exercise. Being active outdoors leads to enhanced feelings of energy and diminished fatigue, anxiety, anger, and sadnesscompared to similar activity conducted indoors. Additionally, some research suggests that outdoor activity may improve attention in adults and children. Another advantage of exercising outdoors is that you might get a better workout because you will likely walk or run faster outdoors. Research shows that even though people tend to exercise at a higher intensity outside, it may feel easier. Much of the psychological benefit of outdoor exercise occurs in the first five minutes, so even short bouts of activity, like walking instead of driving a short distance, are meaningful.
So, as you celebrate Earth Day this month, think about the ways you can go green that are good for your health, your wallet, and the environment.
Learn more from ActivEarth and Climate for Health.
Brian B. Parr, Ph.D. is an ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist® and Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of South Carolina Aiken.