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Old 01-08-10, 10:09 PM   #1
colleen c
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Winter commute and health: For better or worst?

Been wondering about this and not sure if this topic been discuss somewhere here, so if it has please redirect me. Otherwise any comment is fine by me.

I notice many dedicated commuter here. Including those who commute in freezing weather and in the rain. I do not commute Winter time because of my crazy early mourning shift and distant of my work (25mi/way). However, I do commute after work for my many errands after I get home everyday. I used to get sick a lot when I use to drive instead of commute for my errands. That doesn't make sense when I am sniffling and feeling the chill and wind that Winter offers me when I'm out biking. One would think that I will get sick much easier. Not so, it seems that my health got better from the excercise I get as compare to getting more sick if I drive instead of commmute for my errand. Perhaps it boost one immune system?

My question is simple: Do anyone notice they get sick less if you commute in the winter time instead of driving? Or does some of ya do get more cold and fever from Winter commute being out in the cold?.....
(when I said "sick", I don't mean sick of driving, which I'm sure someone will think of that )

Thanks
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Old 01-08-10, 11:03 PM   #2
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Any form of exercise has been known to boost the immune system if i remember right. As for myself, yes. I not only get sick less often but also see myself having more energy and a clear thought process. I also suffer from a chronic illness that requires meds that sometimes impair my immune system. Doc recommended i hop on a bike to help with the disease, been doing it ever since
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Old 01-08-10, 11:45 PM   #3
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Well, I'm no doctor, but I can tell you that since I haven't done my full commute on bike since the 2nd (one-quarter commutes on bike since then, except for today when I unintentionally slept in too late and had to drive), I feel measurably worse, have considerably less energy, and seem to need more sleep. So in my opinion, it's definitely better to ride, with the caveat that proper preparation (i.e., clothes) is taken.

In fact, I feel quite a bit worse even driving one day to work.

I can't wait for the next full commute. I'm considering changing winter tires to something that may be able to handle snow better than my Marathon Winters for this very reason. This heavy snow here is killing me. At least the last leg of my commute is relatively safe - the days are rare that I don't bike at least that, and yes, that 3.4 miles of riding for the day is worthwhile to me.
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Old 01-09-10, 12:11 AM   #4
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I'm a RN. 64 years old.
30% of the beds in our little country hospital have been supersized due to the obesity problem.

I am an old motorcycle racer so my body is really banged up.
4 years ago I could only walk a couple of blocks. I was told both knees needed to be replaced. I had broken my collarbones 5 times, my back once, my pelvis once, all my ribs, a hand and a foot.

4 years ago I started to walk, when I got to eight miles and winter came, I started cross country skiing. The next summer I started to paddle a kayak every day. I bought a bicycle and rode to work.

Today I skied 8 miles and rode my bike 12. I did 45 minutes of stretching and yoga. I still have my original knees. Two years ago I rode my motorcycle across Russia to Mongolia and then to Europe.

In October I will ride my motorcycle across the Sahara desert to Dakar and then down the west coast of Africa. I have ridden twice around the world already.

Honestly there is no other way.
Just keep riding, keep moving.
I rode to work tonight.
Zero degrees.
Snow on the roads.
Studded tires.
Runny nose.
I might not look it but I feel young.
Bill
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I must have six or eight bicycles, three kayaks, a bunch of skis and two big off road dual sport motorcycles.
If anyone wants to go to Africa, please get in touch.
b

Last edited by bmwstbill; 01-09-10 at 12:27 AM.
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Old 01-09-10, 12:48 AM   #5
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Luckily I live in California so the weather very rarely gets bad. I just don't ride when it rains, but I don't have a car so I don't drive either. I haven't noticed an increase or a decrease in illness since getting rid of my car though.
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Old 01-09-10, 01:05 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zoodude View Post
Any form of exercise has been known to boost the immune system if i remember right. As for myself, yes. I not only get sick less often but also see myself having more energy and a clear thought process.
I've always suspected that, but it wasn't till now that I feel so much better in the Winter month now that I do some form of riding instead of putting away the bike.

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Originally Posted by kmcrawford111 View Post
In fact, I feel quite a bit worse even driving one day to work.

I can't wait for the next full commute.
Same here, I usually could hardly wait to get my ride after I get home. It got to the point where I am seriously thinking of getting up 3:30am and riding solo to the Bart station at that time of the mourning. I think having to drive in the mourning just make me more sluggish for the rest of the day.
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Old 01-09-10, 01:22 AM   #7
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Yep same thing happened to me. I wasn't used to the cold and when I rode I would always get sniffles. But after my first year I've noticed I don't get them as easy. Still not immune to thinking it IS too cold, maybe next season.
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Old 01-09-10, 01:23 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmwstbill View Post
Honestly there is no other way.
Just keep riding, keep moving.
I rode to work tonight.
Zero degrees.
Snow on the roads.
Studded tires.
Runny nose.
I might not look it but I feel young.
Bill
PS.
I must have six or eight bicycles, three kayaks, a bunch of skis and two big off road dual sport motorcycles.
If anyone wants to go to Africa, please get in touch.
b
Wow! I'm very impress and at 64. My thumbs up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by girlonbike View Post
Luckily I live in California so the weather very rarely gets bad. I just don't ride when it rains,
Yes, me too. I mostly don't ride in the rain and it seem like I catches more cold when I don't. (probably staying indoor catching other people virus)
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Old 01-09-10, 01:25 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colleen c View Post
I notice many dedicated commuter here. Including those who commute in freezing weather and in the rain. I do not commute Winter time because of my crazy early mourning shift and distant of my work (25mi/way)...

My question is simple: Do anyone notice they get sick less if you commute in the winter time instead of driving? Or does some of ya do get more cold and fever from Winter commute being out in the cold?.....
This is a good question and while I have only anecdotal evidence to respond with I would say that, "Yes." I seem to suffer less colds, flus and infections when I am regularly riding in the cold and wet weather.

Why? I'm not sure. Sometimes I wonder if exercising to the point of raising the body temperature every day for a fairly extended period works in a similar fashion to a fever and makes an unwelcoming environment for germs that might otherwise linger. Or is it that the body is breathing more, moving phlegm and fluids and "breaking up potential infections? I really have no idea. I just know I've been on an incredibly busy schedule this fall and winter and have managed to bike pretty much every day and stave off several colds that I felt coming on but never really took hold- thank goodness. Naturally, rest, fluids and healthy eating will contribute to keep colds and flu at bay as well.

It would be worth making conducting a study on the topic.

PS So sorry to hear about your "mourning" shift- sounds terribly depressing.
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Old 01-09-10, 06:30 AM   #10
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I don't seem to get sick very often-- when I do, I don't seem to stay sick long.

As a piece of empirical evidence, I had a head cold Tues. I was too sick to ride in to work Tues. night. I followed SOP for treatment. I rode my bike in to work Wed.night. When I got to work one of my co-workers started chewing me out for being on the bike with a head cold. I explained that I didn't have a cold anymore. They seemed surprised.
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Old 01-09-10, 06:52 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colleen c View Post
My question is simple: Do anyone notice they get sick less if you commute in the winter time instead of driving? Or does some of ya do get more cold and fever from Winter commute being out in the cold?.....
(when I said "sick", I don't mean sick of driving, which I'm sure someone will think of that )

Thanks
I'll add to your anecdotal evidence: I have gotten sick less over the last 2 cold/flu seasons, which coincides with when I started to commute daily to/from work by bicycle. I got 1 mild cold last year but none so far this year. Like buzzman posted, I have felt myself stave off colds/flu(?) a couple of times since late fall.

Not sure anyone knows how much exercise boosts the immune system, but if you are alone on your bicycle versus packed into a bus, train or car, which do you think will afford you the most opportunity to contract an illness?

One other thing, without enough sleep, exercise or not, we are probably asking for illness.

Last edited by scroca; 01-09-10 at 06:56 AM. Reason: clarity
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Old 01-09-10, 07:09 AM   #12
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I stopped getting colds and flu since I started commuting by bike. I had throat infection maybe once. Part of this is outdoor exercise boosting the immune system, part of this is not being on a crowded subway car with people coughing and sneezing.

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Old 01-09-10, 08:02 AM   #13
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Being cold, or being out in the cold, does not result in illness. Well, maybe hypothermia or frostbite if you get too cold.
A runny nose from cold weather exercise is not a symptom of illness, it's a normal physiologic response.

Exercise is a good thing, hot or cold weather.
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Old 01-09-10, 08:12 AM   #14
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I'm pretty darn fit from commuting year round in a northern climate and I never get sick.
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Old 01-09-10, 08:38 AM   #15
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I've been working out of town for the last month or so, and haven't been doing my daily 18-20km commute, and I'm really feeling it... for the worse. I know I'm gaining a bit of weight and I feel totally lethargic most of the time... I hate spending 2 hours a day in the car too. I do get to work outside though, so I'm not completely sloth yet. But still, I miss the bike commute.
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Old 01-09-10, 09:00 AM   #16
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I haven't had any serious flu or cold for the last three years. Never missed a ride or work because of sickness. I think cycling or excercising in all types of weather makes your immune system much stronger and more effecient.
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Old 01-09-10, 09:42 AM   #17
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I've been wondering the same thing myself.

I was going good this year until New Year's weekend where I didn't get on my bike for 4 days straight - BAM something got me (prob because my G/F was sick before me). Luckily it only kept me off my bike for 2 days. Also, starting up biking again before it was completely out of my system seemed to flush it out the rest of the way.
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Old 01-09-10, 10:33 AM   #18
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I was hit with pneumonia in November and finally had to stop commuting for 4 or 5 weeks as I would start feeling better, commute for a couple days and mess up my lungs again.

Sometimes you just gotta stop long enough to heal.
Now I'm back but avoid sub freezing temps as I get my lungs (and body) back into shape.
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Old 01-09-10, 11:29 AM   #19
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Why? I'm not sure. Sometimes I wonder if exercising to the point of raising the body temperature every day for a fairly extended period works in a similar fashion to a fever and makes an unwelcoming environment for germs that might otherwise linger. Or is it that the body is breathing more, moving phlegm and fluids and "breaking up potential infections?

PS So sorry to hear about your "mourning" shift- sounds terribly depressing.
I never thought of that but it make lots of sense. Higher body temp to fight virus. I might ask my GP next time I visit her.

I feel anytime you have to start off work before 5:30am, it is call a "Mourning" shift. I also Mourn the loss of riding to work when I have to drive instead. Argh!!!
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Old 01-09-10, 11:35 AM   #20
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I have limited knowledge on the subject but I know at the university my brother works at some nutritionists have suspected that a lack of Vitamin D makes people more susceptible to illness.

They noted that even livestock is more prone to illness during the winter and that they started getting sicker at the same time of year regardless of what the actual weather was like. They figured this might be due to the decreased amount of sunlight exposure and the lower production of Vitamin D.

So far tests don't seem to have borne out their hypothesis. They studied a group of surfers who spent hours in the sun on a regular basis even in the winter and they can't say conclusively that that group gets fewer colds and flus than the rest of the population.

This doesn't have a direct connection with commuting since most of us commute in near or total darkness this time of year anyway. I personally haven't noticed a correlation between commuting and frequency of illness but I've been running outdoors year round for decades. I do know that I get sicker more often now that we have kids in school.

My personal experience is that if I do get sick, I recover quicker if I can get back to my normal activities which includes running and biking. Last weekend I came down with some sort of bug thanks to my daughter . I spent almost an entire day in bed. The next morning I still wasn't feeling 100% but I stepped outside for awhile. It was only about 0 F but it was sunny with no wind to speak of. I instantly felt better. My personal theory is that most people spend far too much time indoors.
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Old 01-09-10, 11:43 AM   #21
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Seem like everytime I do get the sneeze and such, other people thinks it's because I am out riding(seem like they all think that), and I disagree with them and agree with JanMM point about being out and cold does not result in Illness. Seriously, I think I would have got it anyway. Like most of the people here responded, I can get over it fairly quickly compare to the past where it may take me 4+ days, now it's like one or two days. I also feel that along with a routine commute commitment, I can ward off any feeling of illness easily by taking a zinc tablet at the first sign of illness. People sometime thinks I'm nuts when I tell them to go out and ride a bike or take more walks in the middle of the Winter. Oh well, their loss and misery....not mine

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Old 01-09-10, 12:25 PM   #22
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Riding through snow with heavy studded tires is quite a workout. I'm probably only marginally less fit in the spring for lack of not being able to do hard sprints due to road conditions. I wouldn't say my health suffers in the winter, though.
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