Health Benefits of Biking and Walking

A couple walks down a sidewalk with their child in a stroller.The health benefits of regular physical activity are far-reaching: reduced risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases; lower health care costs; and improved quality of life for people of all ages. Regular exercise provides the opportunity for health benefits for older adults such as a stronger heart, a more positive mental outlook, and an increased chance of remaining indefinitely independent—a benefit that will become increasingly important as our population ages in the coming years.

Physical activity doesn't need to be very strenuous for an individual to reap significant health benefits. Even small increases in light to moderate activity, equivalent to walking for about 30 minutes a day, will produce measurable benefits among those who are least active.

Health Facts

Less than 10 minutes per week

53 percent of adult men and 64 percent of adult women never get more than 10 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week.

  • According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2,600 Americans die every day from some form of cardiovascular disease, costing over $300 billion in health expenditures and lost productivity. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., with diabetes ranking 7th.
  • According to a CDC report, regular moderate intensity exercise with a healthy diet may reduce one's risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 40 to 60 percent. Recent data suggest that over 23.6 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, with more than 5.7 cases undiagnosed.
  • Physical activity also helps you stay at a healthy weight, reduce stress, sleep better, and feel better overall, according to U.S. Health and Human Services guidelines. This is important because the National Health Interview Survey indicates that 53 percent of adult men and 64 percent of adult women never get more than 10 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week.
  • Physical activity can help prevent:
    • Heart disease
    • Obesity
    • High blood pressure
    • Type 2 diabetes
    • Osteoporosis (thinning bones)
    • Mental health problems such as depression

Several people run and walk along a path in Seattle.A study commissioned by the American Lung Association quantified the clean air and societal benefits that Southern Californians will experience through smart growth strategies that reduce the need to drive (by encouraging greater use of public transit, walking and bicycling). The annual benefits in California alone include reductions of:

  • 60–140 premature deaths
  • 110–260 heart attacks
  • 1,025–2,370 asthma attacks
  • 44,000–101,960 other respiratory symptoms
  • 95–215 chronic and acute bronchitis cases
  • 45–105 respiratory-related ER visits
  • 7,145–16,550 lost work days

No matter what your experience with cycling is, riding a bike can be a great way to get healthy exercise.

The issue of physical activity has never been more important than now. An alarming number of Americans are becoming more sedentary and obese and, consequently, are putting their lives at risk, reports the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Even small increases in light to moderate activity will produce measurable benefits among those who are least active. Engaging in light to moderate physical activity reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and other chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

Health and Fitness Research Links

Medline Plus Health Information from the National Library of Medicine:

American College of Sports Medicine:

Active Aging Partnership (AAP)

Health Statistics

  • Data from Healthy People 2020—This site tracks the success of the Healthy People 2020 objectives developed to improve the health of Americans by the year 2020, including the 10 leading health indicators, and major data sources: DATA2010 from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data are updated quarterly.
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation's State Health Facts Online—This site contains the latest state-level data on demographics, health, and health policy, including health coverage, access, financing, and state legislation. Visitors can compare data for all the states on topics including health status (look here for statistics on obesity), health costs, women's health, minority health, and more.