Everything you need to know to cycle your way to good health…
There’s never been a better time to get on your bike.
As the nation looks for ways to keep fit, lose weight and feel better, the Government has announced that cycling is to be one of it’s key weapons in the fight against obesity.
Protected cycle lanes, cycle safety, tackling bike theft and even cycling on prescription are all part of the £2 billion plan.
The UK now has the second highest rate of obesity in Europe, with over 60 per cent of adults classed as overweight and one in four adults as obese. Worryingly, a third of children aged two to 15 are also overweight or obese.
Obesity is responsible for millions of cases of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer each year, as well as making it harder to fight viruses such as Covid-19.
First and foremost, cycling is fun! It’s an easy, low-impact form of exercise that can be enjoyed by everyone.
You don’t need to sign up to a class or squeeze it into your busy schedule. Instead you can make it part of your daily routine – riding to school, work or the shops.
On average, cycling burns 50 per cent more calories than walking for the same length of time.
And although it is important to do some weight-bearing exercise such as running, tennis or weights for our overall health, cycling causes less stress and strain on your joints and results in fewer injuries.
Imagine all the time saved by dodging traffic jams and over-flowing car parks, not to mention the money saved on fuel costs and parking tickets.
All the while getting fresh air and experiencing a sense of adventure.
Five benefits of biking
Just two to four hours of cycling a week can deliver a whole host of health benefits.
1)WEIGHT LOSS: Cycling at a steady pace works all your major muscles and burns around 300 calories an hour. Combined with a healthy eating plan, it is an effective way to lose weight. Research shows that a daily 30-minute bike ride will burn nearly 5Kg of fat over the course of a year!
2) INCREASED FITNESS: Cycling gets your heart pumping and makes you sweat! This NHS recommended aerobic workout stimulates and improves your heart, lungs and circulation, meaning it reduces your chances of developing major cardiovascular illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
Being physically active will also dramatically cut your risk of developing type 2 diabetes – by up to 40 per cent if you cycle for 30 minutes a day, a study in Finland found.
3) BREATHE BETTER: Incredibly, cycling is actually better for your lung health than driving or walking. Research by the Healthy Air Campaign showed that drivers experience five times higher pollution levels than cyclists in central London, while pedestrians were exposed to three and half times more.
4) MENTAL HEALTH: Biking can bust away those blues. Depression, stress and anxiety can all be reduced with regular exercise. Cycling adds another level of enjoyment, from the joy of being outdoors and the thrill of discovering new places, to the opportunity of meeting new people through cycle groups and clubs.
5) IMMUNITY BOOST: According to a US study, regular aerobic exercise on most days of the week can reduce sick days by up to 40 per cent. Plus, on a bike you’ll dodge the germ-ridden confines of public transport!
Mountain, road, hybrid, folding, vintage and E-bikes. With so many different types of two-wheelers to choose from, it is worth doing your research before parting with your cash. Think about what you want to do with your bike and where you will be going.
Alternatively, consider buying a secondhand bike or hiring one locally.
If you already have a bike but it has seen better days, you may be eligible for a £50 ‘Fix Your Bike’ voucher from the newly launched Government scheme, via the Energy Saving Trust website.
Finally, you may be able to access a bike through your local surgery, as the Government initiative also means cycling can be prescribed by doctors for it’s physical and mental health benefits.
If you are new to cycling, have children, or just want to feel more confident on two wheels, take a look at a cycling course.
Richmond Council runs The National Standard Bikeability Cycle Training Programme in groups, through schools and clubs and on a one-to-one basis.
With three levels, they teach essential skills that can aid even experienced cyclists.
To find a course near you, visit bikeability.org.uk
There is also the option of an online cycle skills course provided by TFL, with easy to follow tips and advice.