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Pedaling to Work and to Better Health

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Pedaling to Work and to Better Health

Hospital news | Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Contact: Thomas Hottman

Active commuting to work or school could be the best part of your day.

That's true for Kerry Byrne, an assistant professor at the Oregon Institute of Technology, who is helping plan the first Bike to Work event in Klamath Falls.

"You don't have to be a cyclist to bike commute," Byrne said. "I'm not. I'm just a professor who doesn't like to drive."

The Klamath Falls event will celebrate National Bike to Work Month, which is May; Bike to Work Week, May 11 through 15 and Bike to Work Day, May 15. But it's not just about biking — participants are encouraged to walk or jog to work or school as well.

This event is supported by Sky Lakes Medical Center and Oregon Tech (with funding provided through the National Institute for Transportation and Communities).

Inspired to ride

Byrne, who is planning the event with Stewart Decker and Jason Yost, both residents at Cascades East Family Practice, and Anthony Igou, the laboratory outreach coordinator at Sky Lakes Medical Center, started participating in similar Bike to Work events in 2005. The winter bike commuting event in Fort Collins, Colo., where Byrne completed her doctorate degree, was always her "favorite holiday."

"I think it's just such a great event," Byrne said.

Decker, who said he wanted to come to Klamath Falls because he saw it as a small town building momentum toward becoming healthier, highlighted the potential health benefits of active commuting.

The idea of biking or walking to work, or school, can be a daunting thing, Decker said, but he hopes the Klamath Falls Bike to Work event will provide incentive for people to try it out, even just for a day or two.

The event includes a free breakfast Friday, May 15, free pizza coupons from Rodeos Pizza and Saladeria, and raffle prizes.

Decker hopes the event will help show people they are capable and powerful, he said.

Sneaking in exercise

Commuting is a great way to sneak physical activity into your day, Decker said. In addition to the endorphin rush, studies show 30 minutes of exercise five days a week drastically improves health outcomes, including cardiovascular health, lowering the chance for diabetes, leads to weight loss, and increases quality of life and longevity, Decker said.

"Those 15 or 10 minutes of exercise add up," he said of a short commute.

Decker's goal is not only that more people start bike commuting, but also that the community as a whole takes notice. As awareness of biking increases, there will also be an increase in safety for bikers and motorists, who will be more likely to be on the lookout for bikers, Decker explained.

Bike as you are

Byrne understands it's not feasible for everyone to bike commute, but her goal is for people who live within 3 miles of work or school will take up some sort of active commuting.

She also hopes to change the perception a bit of bike commuters; you don't need pricey equipment or special clothing to do it.

"You don't need expensive gear to bike commute," She said, suggesting instead that people interested in taking up bike commuting look for a used bike.

Byrne herself wears her work clothes while biking to Oregon Tech, and takes it slow to avoid getting sweaty before work.

"Try it for a week," she suggests, adding that active commuting is easy to make a habit of. "It really does become part of your lifestyle."

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