Bicycling and Wellness

by Donna Merlina

Since January 2014, Whatcom Watch has been rerunning articles from issues printed 20 years ago. The below article appeared in the May 1999 issue of Whatcom Watch.


In 1996, the Surgeon General announced that inactivity is a primary risk factor for heart disease as well as many cancers and diabetes. Childhood and adolescent obesity is a growing concern for many health-care providers.

National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys between 1981 and 1991 revealed that adolescent obesity increased from 15-22 percent! This has been accompanied by an increasing incidence of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus among adolescents. Ileana Vargas, M.D. of Columbia University of New York, said that intervention should focus on a healthy diet, increased exercise and a decrease in sedentary activities.

Why am I telling you all this? Because May is National Bike Month and [Friday, May 17, 2019] is Bike to Work Day. This is an excellent opportunity for us to proactively promote bicycling for individual, community and environmental health! So, let´s get Whatcom County to “Move It!”

Commercializing Exercise
There is a disturbing trend towards packaging exercise as a commodity for sale separate from daily life. Now, health professionals world-wide are recognizing the importance of becoming more physically active in our daily lives and that the best kind of exercise is regular, moderate and an integral, functional part of our lifestyle.

Health Benefits of Cycling
Health agencies world-wide are calling for increased cycling, from the British Medical Association´s challenge to doctors to set an example as in anti-smoking campaigns and get on their bikes, to the Commonwealth Department of Health which recommended strategies be developed to encourage cycling and walking over car use for individual as well as community health. We all know that cars and driving are not healthy, so let´s start promoting Healthy Transportation!

When this was written Donna Merlina, an educator, and her husband enjoyed the benefits of bicycle commuting in Bellingham and had achieved car-free living for the previous three years.

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