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Love Your Bike: Love Your Body

Cycling is not only fun and gets you where you want to go faster but is one of the best forms of exercise – one of the key determinants of good health. The Department of Health recommends that people should take part in moderately intensive activity lasting 30 minutes at least five days a week, and a 15 minute bike ride to work 5 times a week meets that target. The average cyclist is healthier than the average motorist and can expect to live longer. Riding your bike on a regular basis can also protect you from a range of health problems and reduce your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, some types of cancer, obesity and the most common form of diabetes.

Did you know?

Cycling at least 20 miles a week reduces the risk of heart disease to less than half that for non-cyclists who take no other exercise1.

Travelling by bike instead of car for a third of all short journeys would reduce national heart disease rates by 5 to 10 %2.

The average UK resident spends approximately 9 days every year in a car [3].

Those who do not cycle to work experience a 39% higher mortality rate than those who do, regardless of whether or not they cycle or take part in other physical activities [4].

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 [5].

Regular cyclists enjoy a fitness level equal to that of a person 10 years younger [6].

Studies have shown that brisk walking (and cycling) of the type involved in the work journey will convey a 3-7% increase in cardiovascular fitness, a 5% drop in cholesterol and a 3% drop in bodyweight. Research demonstrated these benefits were gained in a 15-week study period.

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 [5].

Cyclists and pedestrians actually absorb lower levels of pollutants from traffic fumes than car drivers [7].

    Love your heart

    People taking regular physical activity suffer far less heart disease than people who don’t. A major study of more than 10,000 people found that those who cycle at least 20 miles a week are half as likely to have heart problems as those who don’t cycle at all. Regular cycling helps to lower cholesterol, blood pressure and the resting heart rate. It also increases the high-density lipo-protein/cholesterol ratio in the blood as well (that’s a good thing) and reduces the chances of strokes and heart attacks caused by clotting.

    Love your lungs

    Want to get fit, then cycle! Cycling is one of the most enjoyable and effective workouts. 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. It also found that those people who do not normally 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. Improved lung capacity and aerobic stamina will also allow you to continually improve your fitness levels over time.

    Cyclists and pedestrians also absorb lower levels of pollutants from traffic fumes than other road users so your lungs won’t suffer as much as theirs.

    Love your mind

    Cycling can have positive effects on how you feel. Several studies have shown that exercise helps reduce stress, depression, improves a general sense of well-being and improves mental capacities. Cycling is a stress free means of taking physical activity because it can form part of a daily routine. So there’s no need to worry about fitting your new healthy lifestyle into an already overcrowded schedule. So go cycle – you’ll feel better for it!

    Love your bones

    Exercise helps strengthen bones and muscles. Cycling can improve your strength and coordination and therefore reduce the risk of injury from falls. Because the bicycle supports your body, cycling isn’t necessarily a weight-bearing exercise so it’s good for people with certain bone and joint problems. Studies have shown that physically active older people have much reduced rates of hip fracture. Cycling is a low impact activity and one of the safest ways to exercise without risk of over-exertion or strain to muscles and joints.

    Love your waistline

    Regular physical activity burns body fat and raises your metabolic rate. Weight management and weight loss can both be significantly helped by regular cycling. Cycling burns 300 calories an hour, so if you do it twice a day, the numbers soon add up. 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. Regular cycling also makes obesity unlikely thus helping reduce the chances of diabetes.

    Love your body forever! – Longer-term benefits of cycling

    As well as the benefits already mentioned, regular cycling is great for you in the longer term. Studies have shown that a regular cyclist will have greater protection from some of the country’s most prevalent causes of death, for example:

    • Heart failure
    • Strokes
    • Falls, fractures and injuries
    • Dangers of pollution
    • Cancer and diabetes

    Check out these links for more detailed information about the health benefits of cycling:

    1. British Heart Foundation, Morris
    2. Bikes not Fumes, CTC, 1992
    3. National Travel Survey
    4. Anderson LB et al. All-cause mortality associated with physical activity during leisure time, work, sports and cycling to work. Arch Intern Med 2000; June 12; 160(11); 1621-8
    5. Leeds cycling action group. Cycling and Health
    6. National Forum for Coronary Heart Disease Foundation, Sharp

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