With winter just about behind us, this month’s blog celebrates with a quick eulogy to cycling and what benefits it provides us.
The benefits of cycling are almost as endless as the country lanes and parks awaiting you to explore. Here are the top reasons to occasionally or regularly get on your bike.
Ride for life. Cycling 20 miles per week halves your risk of heart disease and reduces the risk of cancer due to improving heard rate and health. It is low-impact so protects and strengthens joints and ligaments and causes fewer injuries than most other forms of exercise. This, coupled with the seat and simple cycling movement, also makes cycling non-strenuous and less tiring than walking, but burns more calories, helping with weight and fat loss. Cycling for just half an hour, for instance, will burn 2-500 calories with little effort. This is because cycling uses all the major muscle groups, so offsets the effort whilst giving a good muscle workout. So that’s your cardiovascular, muscular and joint health sorted, but cycling also has great links to boosting mental health. The research links this to the stimulation of being outdoors, better vitamin D levels, increased serotonin, dopamine, adrenalin and endorphins, engaging in a social activity and being more physically fit. But the health benefits go on, including improved coordination, judgement and perception skills, spatial awareness, flexibility …
Ride to work. Save time, money, risk and annoyance. Cycling to work can help beat congested roads and opens up a network of far nicer, and often quicker and safer routes. Sustrans, cycling UK, and many other provide free online maps of these routes. Cycling also saves time finding a space to park and even having to find a meter or permit to pay for it, or queuing for buses, trains and trams whilst freeing you from the confines of toxic exhaust fumes and germ infused public transport. It is also linked to improved immune systems and increased productivity and happiness at work.
Plus there is no need to spend time and money refueling and the government’s cycle to work scheme can even save you money (up to 40%) on the cost of a bike and accessories. Over 1 million employees have participated in the scheme to date since its launch in 1999 and the best suppliers for it are CycleScheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycles and Halfords. The tax exemption the scheme allows may also soon be extended to electric bikes, helping with any hills, long journeys or also moving kids and other stuff. Breathable and waterproof bags and clothing also allows you to arrive at work comfortable, non-sweaty and ready for the day ahead. Cycling for your commute also helps you easily get a good daily quota of exercise and opens you up to a great and growing community during time that is usually wasted. This growing popularity comes with increasing support for cyclists and is seen by the success of #RidetoWork week this week, with over 4,000 participants and some great photos and comments added, and over 40,000 participants in last year’s #CycleToWorkDay. Free bike training and maintenance is also available, such as here.
Ride for fun and much more. Cycling is fun. But it is also seen as one of the best ways to revitalise towns and city centres, boost cultural and social engagement, contribute to a more sustainable and lower-cost transport system, spur lasting environmental and health benefits (and of course health benefits add up to reduced health expenditure and pressures), and make people more productive once they get to where they need to be. And when you are there, there is an increasing supply of secure bike parking ‘hubs’ in the UK so you can leave your bike with confidence and peace of mind. Nottingham City Council is a good example, with 19 smart card activated, 24/7 secure and well-lit hubs across the city all for just a one-off cost of £5. These are in most cities now and advertised on the website of your local council, so take a look and get cycling.
Blog by Lewis Cameron, Research Fellow, Project SCENe, University of Nottingham