Why you, yes you, should cycle

Cycling offers numerous benefits. It gives the body a fast and energetic workout. There is a definite shaping, toning and firming of the thighs, the calf muscles and the pelvis region. Fat melts away and is replaced by muscle. Some studies suggest that cycling is one of the few exercises that can help reduce cellulite from the thigh region. There is relatively less stress on the knees and ankles while cycling as compared to other activities like running and aerobic exercises

Getting on your bike regularly not only gets you where you want to go faster than a car, it protects you against a wide range of ill health, and also makes you feel better

Cycling is good for your heart and health

Everyday cycling, where the exercise leaves you breathing heavily but not being out of breath, is an effective and enjoyable form of aerobic exercise. This is the type of exercise that is most effective at promoting good health.

Apart from burning away body fat and getting rid of cellulite, cycling reduces the chances of heart diseases, and also increases the body’s protection against various forms of diabetes and high blood pressure.

This is because cycling facilitates blood circulation throughout the body, which carries oxygen-rich blood to all the muscles. The heavy breathing experienced after a few minutes of cycling increase the intake of oxygen, making it an effective aerobic exercise.

Moderate cycling can prevent, or at least reduce, high blood pressure and so help to avoid stroke or damage to the organs. Blood pressure is also reduced by a lower heart rate, which is a result of regular cycling.

One rough calculation suggests that new cyclists covering short distances can reduce their risk of death (mainly due to the reduction of heart disease) by as much as 22 per cent.

Cycling will help with weight management

Cycling can be part of a programme to lose weight because it burns the energy supplied by a chocolate bar or a couple of alcoholic drinks in an hour (about 300 calories). A 15-minute bike ride to and from work five times a week burns off the equivalent of 11 pounds of fat in a year. That kind of cycling pattern also meets the Government’s latest target on exercise: that we should take part in some mild to moderate physical activity that leaves us out of breath for at least 30 minutes five times a week.

Cycling can train your body to use up fat reserves and also changes the cholesterol balance, favouring the protective kind over that which is threatening to health. As body weight reduces and cholesterol is optimised, a protective mechanism is enabled by continuing to cycle.

Cycling can improve your mood

Cycling can have positive effects on how we feel too. Moderate exercise has been found to reduce levels of depression and stress, improve mood and raise self-esteem, and has also been found to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

Cycling can help to maintain strength and coordination

There can also be indirect benefits in terms of reducing injuries from falls, which can be seriously disabling, especially in older people. The strength and co-ordination that regular cycling brings make them less likely. Physically active older people have much reduced rates of hip fracture.

How cycling improves fitness

A study carried out for the Department of Transport found that ‘even a small amount of cycling can lead to significant gains in fitness’. The study found that aerobic fitness was boosted by 11 per cent after just six weeks of cycling ‘short distances’ four times a week. If cycling the equivalent of four miles to and from work in total a day the aerobic benefit increased to 17 per cent.

According to the Department of Transport study people who do not exercise who start cycling move from the third of the population who are the least fit, to the fittest half of the population in just a few months.

Leg strength also improved in the cyclists in the study. This is more important than it seems because leg strength improves other mobility by allowing people to get out of chairs more easily, and helps older people especially avoid falls and the broken bones and other injuries associated with them.

Cycling, the researchers behind the study concluded, is ‘one of the few physical activities which can be undertaken by the majority of the population as part of a daily routine’.

Cyclists breathe in less fumes than car drivers

If you are worried about traffic fumes, there may be no need. Cyclists and pedestrians actually absorb lower levels of pollutants from traffic fumes than car drivers

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