Life Tip: Walk or Bike to Work/School

I think this piece of advice is pretty simple.  If you can live close enough to walk or bike to work or school, I think you should do so.  I have had this luxury for the past 3 years and I don’t ever want to live outside of walking/biking distance again.  This simple step helps you decrease cost and increase exercise and helps society by decreasing pollution.

Less Expensive

Cars are incredible destroyers of wealth.  I believe they are one of the single biggest reasons more people in the US aren’t financially independent.  I’ve made this mistake myself- I bought three brand new cars .  Let’s run the numbers.

If you buy a $5k car instead of a $30k car, you will be one MILLION dollars wealthier by the time you reach 65 years of age.  Between the higher cost of insurance, registration, fees, and taxes, depreciation, and the difference of investing that $25k instead of spending it on a car, the difference in annual cost of ownership can be ~$6,000.  Compound this from age 18 to 65 at 5% real (accounting for inflation) and you get $1.1 million.  Cars DESTROY wealth.

OK, so let’s apply this to walking.  Let’s say you live pretty close to work- maybe a 5 mile drive.  I consider this an equivalent psychological distance to the 15 minute walk.  At the estimated cost of $0.50 per mile, compounded over 30 years, that adds up to ~$126,000.  So you could have over a hundred thousand dollars just by walking instead of a short drive.  If your commute is even longer, increase these numbers dramatically.

AND you don’t have to buy a parking pass.  I love not having to buy a parking pass- I think paying for parking is absolutely criminal.  Walking or biking will make you richer faster.  It’s basic math.

More Exercise

The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intense aerobic activity each week.  You could go to the gym and get on a treadmill to do this, but you’re a busy veterinary professional.  Who has time for that?  Instead, you could make a short 15 minute walk from work.  Each day that’s 30 minutes which adds up to 150 minutes.  You’ve met your basic exercise requirement just by your daily walk to work.

And let’s talk weight loss benefits.  A 15 minute walk burns ~75 calories.  That works out to 750 calories a week.  Assuming a pound of fat takes 3,500 calories to burn off, you could be 11 pounds lighter at the end of the year just by a short walk to work.  And of course a longer walk or a bike ride will burn even more calories.  What’s not to love about that?

Decreased Pollution

If you take a short drive- say 5 miles- each way to work, in a moderately fuel-efficient car (30 mpg), that is adding 0.55 metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere every year.  That’s like turning on TEN 50-watt lights for 4 hours every day.  Or doing 9 loads of laundry every week.  It’s not going to save the world, but it’s an easy step in the right direction.

I understand there are obstacles to walking or biking to work or school.  In some places, this is simply not an option, or not an affordable option.  Some people are chronically late (despite my advice to be on time) and so “need” the 10 minutes or so they would spend walking or biking.  But I believe many people COULD walk or bike to work, they just choose not to because we have such a strong car culture.

I walked and biked during my internship year and now during my time on faculty and it is fantastic.  I personally suggest a walking time of 15-30 minutes or a biking time of the same.  One place I lived was a 45 minute walk or a 15 minute bike- I walked it occasionally, but the bike ride was much better. 

I have a saying about local anesthesia, “If you CAN do a local block, you SHOULD do a local block.”  Same thing with transportation.  “If you CAN walk or bike to work, you SHOULD walk or bike to work.”  Why not give it a try?

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