With support from the Pedal Project and InCor-SP, Bike Anjo challenged two São Paulo residents to commute to work by bike for a month and monitored the impacts on their health

May 11, 2018, Sao Paulo –  Every year, around 7 million people die of air pollution-diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In Brazil, research led by Dr. Paulo Saldiva (Pathologist, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sao Paulo) has shown that “breathing in Sao Paulo traffic for two hours is the equivalent to smoking a cigarette,” and that “São Paulo suffers from chronic bronchitis and obesity.”
Bike Anjo (portuguese for ‘Bike Angel’), a Brazilian NGO, has joined forces with public health allies to lead a movement that seeks to change the transport culture in large cities. It’s demonstrating that commuters who bike to work experience direct benefits — to their own health and quality of life — in addition to improving public health. By reducing the number of vehicles powered by fossil fuels on the roads, cycle commuters are helping to reduce urban air pollution, with demonstrated impacts in terms of a reduced burden of disease.

Bike Anjo has organized the Bike to Work Campaign in Brazil every year since 2013. This year, they added the Commuter Challenge: two Sao Paulo residents signed up to bike to work every day for a month. Contestants agreed to undergo medical screenings at the beginning and end of the month to assess the impact of the change in daily routine on their health, and to have a video of their journey recorded to share the results. The health checks monitored the impacts on  their heart, pulmonary metabolism, and muscles, as well as the ways that air pollution interfered with their lung function.
“Giuliana, 25, experienced a 20% gain in aerobic capacity as a result of pedaling longer, with a heavier load, and her oxygen intake increased,” noted Dr. Ana Luiza Panico, of InCor-SP (Sao Paulo Heart Institute), who monitored and analyzed the medical exams. “Blood sugar levels dropped significantly in both cases, which is important as this can delay a possible onset of diabetes in adulthood or improve management — with fewer drugs — of diabetes that starts during this phase of life,” explained Dr. Ubiratan de Paula Santos, the InCor-SP pulmonologist who oversaw the health aspects of the Challenge. He is a founder of the Pedal Project, which aims to encourage cycling as a  health measure and non-polluting form of urban mobility through research.
The Commuter Challenge also showed that the mental health benefits to people who bike to work were even more significant than other health benefits recorded in medical screenings. For Jamile, 44, “Overcoming fear and developing stamina and resilience were the most important learnings.” Both Giuliana and Jamile, experienced improved self-esteem and self-confidence after the first week of the Challenge. Both participants also reported a clear improvement in mood as well as lower stress, which in Giuliana’s case also resulted in more productivity at work. “I felt I could do more in less time and with less time wasted on the days I biked to work — the difference it made was funny, it felt like I’d become two different people: One with a bike, another without.
Detailed description of the challenge (in Portuguese)
Video release (including commentary by Dr. Paulo Saldiva, professor of pathology at the School of Medicine of the University of Sao Paulo, expert in air pollution, and cyclist)
Campaign imagery (photos)
Commuter Challenge imagery (photos)
Veronica Barbosa
Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA)
Tel. +55 (21) 99661-6403 (Whatsapp)
Marina Castilho
Bike Anjo
+55 (11) 994 484 957 / +55 (21) 997 576 003

* On Bike to Work Day (May 11th), a series of awareness-raising actions are planned in the streets and workplaces of Sao Paulo by the Bike Anjo network and various partner organizations.
* In São Paulo, an event is planned to bring together municipal government representatives (Municipality of São Paulo), the business sector, and civil society. The Sao Paulo Bike to Work Prize 2018 will be awarded at the event.
* This year’s Bike to Work Campaign is supported by the Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA).

  • Bike Anjo is a network that mobilizes people to transform cities through cycling.
  • Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA) supports strategic communications and campaigns designed to leverage the work of organizations whose missions can help drive climate action.