It’s now been 3 weeks since I arrived in Sydney for my sabbatical work trip, and I’ve been blogging a lot about the changes it’s brought about in my physical activity and other health-related habits. At first it was a big adjustment to carry around my laptop, work stuff, and haul groceries from the store to my apartment, all on foot. Sydney is also hilly, so hauling myself up and down those hills was causing knee pain and considerable huffing, puffing, and sweating. Even though I thought I was fairly active in Boston, I really noticed a difference in how my body felt (namely more achy and tired in my shoulders and feet), how I slept (longer than I do at home) and how I ate (generally less than at home).
I’ve also been going places using public transport. The public transportation system here is pretty extensive, with buses, light rail, heavy rail, and ferries (I get on a boat to go to Sydney Opera House from my apartment!). Today I took bus and light rail to get to the beach at Maroubra where I met some friends for a beach outing and fish and chips after (Sydney has completely mastered the art of frying, I must say). I’ve been taking buses all over town, walking to lunch dates, and riding my bike along the multi-use paths and some quiet streets.
I’m starting to notice some subtle differences. My right knee is not really hurting going down stairs or hills, and my left knee is not really hurting going up them. This is a good thing. The hills on my regular routes just don’t seem as long or as high as when I first got here. The bags I carry don’t seem as heavy. Could I be getting fitter?
The evidence is promising. A recent Wall Street Journal article tells stories and quotes studies about the benefits of walking, biking and taking public transportation to and from work. In some studies done both in the UK and the US, researchers found that commuters switching from driving to taking public transport experienced on average some small weight loss over time. This is not surprising, given that (according to this study) commuters using public transport average an extra 8—33 minutes of day of walking.
I’m not advocating public transport as a weight loss tool; what I’m saying is that, after 3 weeks of walking, busing, cycling, and taking trains and ferries, I’m feeling peppier, more nimble, stronger, and in general better.
And that’s not all that public transportation does for us. According to many reports on the benefits of public transportation on health. It’s basically good for what ails you, especially if you prefer fewer traffic accidents, cleaner air, less car-induced stress and congestion, and a more active approach to getting back and forth.
I plan to keep up the active commuting when I return to Boston. It will take some prioritizing, as it’s not simply a 20-minute walk like what I have here. I will have to take the bus or ride my bike to the subway, then take the commuter rail to my academic job at home. This takes a long time—1:45 each way! But the drive is about an hour each way (sometimes more if traffic is bad), and it is a misery. I’m really tired of doing it, so next semester, I will take public transport at least once a week and see how things go from there. The fact is, I like it—it feels good. So why not do it?
What about you, blog readers? Have you changed your commuting habits lately (or not)? Have you noticed any changes in how you feel? I’d love to hear about it.