After the relaxing summer vibe it can be hard to come back to work.  Returning to your routine and commitments may make it harder to sustain some of your healthier habits from the holidays.  Rather than wave goodbye to time outdoors and being more active, why not build it into your normal routine?  An option could be using your commuting time to get some exercise.  A good example of this might be biking to work, or to the train station or bus depot.  It can also help to enlist the support and comradery of friends and colleagues.

The Aotearoa Bike Challenge runs in February each year and is a fun, free competition that’s all about seeing which workplaces can get the most people to ride a bike for just 10 minutes or more.  It’s not about going hard out, it is just about moving a bit more and getting on your bike.

Umbrella Wellbeing are sponsoring prizes for the Wellington Aotearoa Bike Challenge, and team members in Auckland and Wellington are taking part.  This is how we roll – we want to walk the talk.  And when it comes to wellbeing and healthy habits, physical activity is a star performer.

Biking is a great way get more active and improve your health, both physical and mental.  According to a recent five-year study of more than 250,000 people published in The British Medical Journal, cycling reduced a person’s chances of getting cancer by 45 per cent, heart disease by 46 per cent, and death from diseases such as those by 41 per cent.  On the mental health front, regular exercise such as biking helps manage stress, reduce anxiety, prevent cognitive decline, and improve your self-esteem and social connection.  Some people even usee biking as an opportunity to practice mindfulness.

Knowing something is good for you is one thing, doing it is another.  If that is you then you are not alone – only around half of New Zealand adults get the recommended amount of exercise.  We have busy and demanding lives and it is hard to fit anything more in.  That is where ‘swapping out’ is a good option, for example swapping time spent commuting by car or train with biking or walking to work instead.  Walking meetings can be a good option too, especially for regular ‘checking in’ meetings.

By this time of year, some of us might be beating ourselves up for not maintaining the momentum of our new year’s resolutions.  It is helpful to change the story.  Rather than taking an ‘all or nothing’ approach, it helps to ‘chunk up’ your physical activity into small ‘bites’ during the week, and build it into your normal activities.  Small incremental changes are easier to sustain.  A helpful approach might be to start small, perhaps one day a week, and utilise supports such as being able to take your bike on the bus or train so as to make your journey length more manageable.

If you think it will take too long, or the hills and wind aren’t your friends, then consider an e-bike.  In some cities you can even rent one to try it out.  You still get the benefits of exercise on an e-bike, but will arrive less sweaty and wearing the famous ‘e-bike grin’.  You may even find that biking to work is quicker than driving or taking public transport, especially if cycling routes are more direct and avoid traffic jams and parking hassles.  Some workplaces are also now offering interest free loans for employees to purchase e-bikes.  Awesome.

If commuting by bike isn’t an option, consider using bike share services or office shared bikes to get to meetings across town.  Some organisations even use lunchtime for group mountain bike rides.  If you are in the city this could be a fun time to get together with some colleagues and rent some e-bikes for a lunchtime jaunt.  If you are really lucky your workplace may even have pool bikes available for your use.

As an employer encouraging your staff to bike means you’ll benefit from healthier and more productive employees who take fewer sick days and arrive at work invigorated and ready for the day.  For more information about the benefits and practicalities of supporting biking in the workplace check out this helpful workplace cycling guide from the NZTA.

We hope you will join us in making February a month of building healthy sustainable habits.  By starting small, chunking it up, and enjoying the journey you will be well on your way.

It’s not to late to start, so check out the Aotearoa Bike Challenge – we hope to see you there!

Image Credit: NZTA CycleLife Photo Library