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Stanford University study finds similar effect whether riding to or from work

Stanford University’s Calming Technology Lab has found that cyclists are 40 per cent less likely to be stressed during and after their commutes compared to those who drove or took public transport, reports BikeBiz. The data comes from assessing the breathing patterns of 1,000 commuters across 20,000 commutes.

The head of Stanford University’s Calming Technology Lab, Neema Moraveji, was keen to point out to fastcoexist.com that stress isn’t just a product of the working environment.

"People normally think of stress as something that happens at work, and certainly it does, but commutes are interesting because it's a place where you're kind of in charge of your environment — you're usually on your own, in control, and you can set the tone of your day. We wanted to see what kind of state people put themselves in."

Moraveji co-founded Spire Inc which produces the wearable breathing monitors used in the study. By tracking the length and depth of breathing throughout the day, the devices could pick up on moments of higher stress as these are characterised by short, shallow breaths.

Moraveji said that it wasn’t just after the morning commute where people felt stressed. Levels were also high in the early evening, but again walking or cycling appeared to help.

“It’s particularly interesting to see that many people don’t transition back into the home after a long day of work very well. By biking to work we know that the physical nature of cycling and physical exertion will engender a more calm and focused state of mind. So while being good for us physically, we also see lots of psychological and emotional benefits."

The findings echo those of a recently-completed 10-year study carried out by the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School and the Centre for Health Economics at the University of York. It found that cycling or walking to work makes people less stressed and more productive. The researchers also looked in more detail at a small group who had switched from commuting by car or public transport to either cycling or walking. They discovered that these people had become happier following their switch.

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