The Commute That Makes You Happiest

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Wake up, eat breakfast, head out the door to the bus/train/car/subway. You probably don’t give your commute too much thought. But according to a new study out of Clemson University, you should.

In fact, your morning mode of transportation could impact your day—and your mood—more than you know. After analyzing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Eric Morris, assistant professor of planning, development and preservation at Clemson, and the study’s lead author found that how you travelled to and from work was linked to your mood.

The results: Bicycling was the happiest mode of transportation, and the level of enjoyment drops quickly from there. The second happiest commuters were passengers in cars, followed by car drivers, walkers, train riders, and lastly—and least happy—bus goers. (Sorry, ferry lovers, boats weren’t included in the study!)

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So why are bikers so darn happy in the a.m.? Morris suspects the reason is two-fold. For one, cyclists tend to be, well, really into cycling. Since they’re enthusiastic about their activity, it makes their commute that much better. (After all, who rides the subway for fun?) Secondly, bicyclists tend to be young and in shape—a group of people who tend to be the happiest in a population.

It should come as no surprise then that Denmark and the Netherlands—two perennial “happiest country” winners—are also big biking countries. Morris estimates that 20 percent of trips in these countries are done via two wheels instead of one.

Scared of hitting the streets with just a helmet? Some research—like a recent U.K. study—suggests that biking is five times safer than driving. And if the obvious benefit of exercise isn’t enough to convince you, know this: The non-profit International Bicycle Fund ballparks that you’ll drop 13 pounds the first year biking to work every day.

Many cities—New York, Boston, San Francisco, to name a few—tout impressive bike share systems that are also affordable. Would you trade your subway pass or your license for a bike every now and then? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @Shape_Magazine.

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