The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Get a Hybrid? Get a Bike!

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Friday, May 16, 2008

People are getting green – with envy over their friends’ and neighbors’ environment-friendly cars. Now with gas prices going through the sunroof, they are even more envious of the energy-efficiency feature of such cars. 

But before you turn green with envy – or from nausea over gas prices – consider this. You and your legs are the most energy efficient mode of transportation there is. According to Marcia Lowe in her book, “The Bicycle:  Vehicle for a Small Planet,” published by the Worldwatch Institute in 1989, bicycling burns 35 calories per person mile traveled. Walking – 100 calories per person per mile. But hop in your car and drive a mile and your car will burn over 1,800 calories – and add pollution to boot. 

Now consider this. The gas you use for your car is non-renewable. It comes out of the ground, is refined, put in the car, burned, and it's gone. The fuel your body uses is renewable.  Food comes from the earth, is processed in some cases (think potato chips versus potatoes), is eaten, and burned.  But our food fuel can be replanted and regrown year after year.

Remember, too, that using “leg power” is not only good for the earth, it is good for your health.  Regular physical activity reduces risk for many chronic ailments including heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and, of course, obesity.

With global warming and the growing global obesity epidemic, perhaps Dr. Lowe should update her book title to “The Bicycle: Vehicle for a Fat Planet.”

What are ways you can use “leg power” instead of your auto?