Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cycling Makes You Smarter and Nicer

via Treehugger/NYT

First, I spotted Anna's post about a Swedish study entitled, "Cardiovascular fitness is associated with cognition in young adulthood." Then, I saw a link to an article (I can't remember where) about a study that showed the negative effects of gasoline fumes on the brains of rats. The Wired article I read says that researcher Amal Kinawy of Cairo University found exposure to gasoline fumes made rats more aggressive and anxious. Moreover, some of the changes in the brain are described as "damage."
“Rats exposed to unleaded gasoline showed indications of increased damage caused by free radicals and altered levels of neurotransmitters in the brain cortex region, in comparison with the control or leaded-gasoline groups. Furthermore, inhalation of both fuels induced significant fluctuations in neurotransmitters in the hypothalamus, hippocampus and cerebellum.”
Brain damage?! The health benefits of cycling just reached a whole new level. Perhaps, in the interest of public health, the CDC should revive the "Is your trip necessary?" posters from WWII. Of course, they would need to change the imagery to suit the times--one person sitting in a huge SUV amongst a smoggy sea of other solitary drivers in SUV's ought to do it.


anna said...

Yeah, the exposure to gasoline fumes is certainly not a good thing, I even studied some of these chemicals coming out of an exhaust (only in theory though). Might be slightly better these days since we don't use lead anymore, but it's still not good if one sits in a traffic jam and constantly breathes in the exhausts of the car in front.

Filigree said...

What about cycling next to/ behind cars? That gives you greater exposure to gasoline fumes then being inside one. This is why I try to avoid cycling on large, congested roads.

The Bronze Bombshell said...

Anna: I agree. At least if you're on a bike it's easier to get off the road and wait out the traffic at a coffee shop or take another route or even the sidewalk (if you must). Being literally stuck in traffic is probably as much a problem as the chemicals in the exhaust.

Filigree: That's a great rationale for limiting car traffic in some areas, like NYC's Central Park loop drive, but I'm not going to hold my breath. (No pun intended).

Adrienne Johnson said...

Just post pictures of the 405 freeway in LA at rush hour. If that does not make you think twice about driving, nothing will.

Somewhere over at Copenhagenize, Mikael has links to the studies that show the much higher level of toxic gas fumes inside cars than outside cars in the areas you would find a cyclist standing next to a car at a light. It is appalling. I always drive with the car's windows cracked open to keep the air moving.

The Bronze Bombshell said...

Adrienne Johnson: I've heard about LA traffic--I listened to folks try to outdo one another with traffic horror stories from Dallas, Atlanta, and LA.

I don't know what to think about the level of exposure cyclists deal with because different groups use different studies for different ends. A group that is promoting cycling will cite a study that says cyclists don't suffer as much exposures as drivers while a group that wants to restrict cars will cite a study that says cyclists suffer greatly from exposure to fumes. Either way, I'm going to ride, but I'll try to take back streets for health/safety reasons.

Mark said...

Hello Bronze Bombshell - I've used the study you've linked to as part of a blog post over at i b i k e l o n d o n - I've added a full link to your blog, with thanks. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!


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