How Biking To Work Is Going To Save My Life


[credit provider=”Mandi Woodruff”]

The only form of life insurance I have at the moment is currently locked up to a grungy U-rack outside my Manhattan office building. It’s my bicycle, a beautiful sky blue 3-speed cruiser.

It cost me just under $500, has shaved thousands of dollars from my daily commute and, if I have anything to say about it, will eventually save my life

Before you roll your eyes and lump me into some hipster-sized box reserved for vegans and Occupy Wall Street protesters in your mind, hear me out. 

Though it’s been nearly two decades, I clearly remember the moment I knew I was fat.

I was 8 years old and my best friend, Danielle, and I were horsing around in her kitchen when she threw open her pantry door and lugged out an old scale.

I’d never weighed myself before so when it was my turn, I didn’t know what to make of the number that popped up. And then her mother crept up behind us, startling me so much that I slipped off the scale. 

Damn girl!” she said.

I was 129 pounds. 

It wasn’t all that surprisingBoth my parents’ families have a history of obesity and throughout my life, I’ve attended funerals for extended relatives that died from a host of obesity-related diseases: Heart disease, stroke, respiratory failure, complications from Type II diabetes, kidney failure – you name it. 

By the time I was 13, I was well on my way to joining them, tipping the scale at a whopping 200 pounds. I was too lazy to starve myself into anorexia, too squeamish for bulimia and too shy to learn to laugh at myself before anyone else did. 

So, I started counting calories, joined my school’s marching band and cross country team and worked my arse off–literally.  By college, I’d kicked my calorie-counting habit but immediately began to realise just how expensive it was to live a healthy lifestyle.

Between my gym membership and the hundreds of dollars I spent stocking up on what I thought were “healthy” foods at the grocery store, I blew through whatever income I had left from my part-time job after rent and tuition were paid. 

It became even harder to budget for extravagances like Spin and Zumba class when I moved to New York City in 2010. My monthly commute set me back more than $330 per month and with the added cost of living, I knew I had to make a change if I wanted to stay afloat. 

At the time, I was taking the subway to Grand Central Station each day for work–just a 2.5 mile commute. The city is pretty cyclist-friendly, so I decided to buy a bike and stop paying for a monthly subway pass ($104).

After two months, the $180 beater bike I found on Craiglist had paid for itself and I had lost inches off my waistline. Not only had I found a way to cut my cost of living, but I’d discovered a sure-fire way to beat my family history of obesity and actually live longer.  

If you don’t believe me, just check out the findings from a recent study conducted by the University of Wisconsin. Researchers found that if citizens in 11 Midwest states adopted cycling for running shorter errands rather than driving, it would save the economy $7 billion on health care and prevent more than 1,100 deaths.

The health benefits were based on reduced air pollution from fewer gas-guzzlers out on the road, which would improve heart function and the risk of heart attacks, asthma and strokes–all the diseases I’ve watched my family suffer from for years. And those benefits extended to non-cyclists, too. 

Since my mother was recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia, I’m even more determined to prevent health issues down the road. 

So the next time someone honks and rolls down their window this winter to ask why the hell I’m on a bike in below-freezing Manhattan weather, I’ll have a real answer this time: 

“I’m saving my life. What’s it to you?”

Cycling was only the beginning. See 9 other ways I got my personal finances back on track >