It’s a no-brainer

Cycling is good for you and good for the planet

“When I got the bike I must have been the happiest boy in Liverpool, maybe the world.” John Lennon

Cycle to Work Day, the UK's biggest cycle commuting event is nearly upon us. Get ready and get those legs stretched for 15 August!

There are great benefits to cycling – in addition to the cost savings on transport, it gets you fit and helps the environment.

Cycling is a low-impact exercise, so it's easier on your joints than running or other high-impact aerobic activities. The best way to build your cardiovascular fitness on your bike is to ride for at least 150 minutes a week, e.g. you could cycle to work a few days a week or do a couple of shorter rides during the week, with a longer ride at the weekend.

What are the benefits of cycling? There are lots!

Cycling is a low-impact exercise. It's kinder on your joints than running and other high-impact aerobic activities and is a good muscle workout. Cycling uses all of the major muscle groups as you pedal.

It's easy! Unlike some other sports, cycling does not require high levels of physical skill. Most people know how to ride a bike and, once you learn, you don’t forget.

Cycling increases stamina, strength and aerobic fitness. In particular, mountain biking, or "out of the saddle" riding is an excellent full-body exercise. When mountain biking, you're constantly shifting your weight, sometimes carrying your bike, working your arms, chest, abs and improving your core stability.

Cycling can be as intense or as low-key as you want. It can be done at very low intensity to begin with, if recovering from injury or illness, but can be built up to a demanding physical workout. In cycling, levels of exertion can be much more finely tuned than any other form of exercise. Using speed, wind resistance, gearing, gradient or carrying extra weight, you can tailor your level of exertion to suit your current fitness level or goals.

Cycling is a fun way to get fit. The fun you have from coasting down hills and being outdoors means you are more likely to continue to cycle regularly, compared to other physical activities that keep you indoors or require special times or places. And, it can be done with all the family.

As a means of transport, cycling replaces sedentary time spent driving cars or using the train or bus with healthy exercise.

Studies have shown that regular cyclists enjoy the general health of someone c.10 years younger and many cyclists find that cycling regularly reduces their feelings of stress and promotes relaxation.

Regular cycling improves balance and co-ordination.  Cycling improves strength, balance and coordination. It may also help to prevent falls and fractures. Riding a bike is an ideal form of exercise if you have osteoarthritis, because it is a low-impact exercise that places little stress on joints.

Studies have shown that those who cycle to work suffer less absenteeism than non-cycling employees, with employees arriving arrive fresh, relaxed and motivated.

Cycling has a broad appeal; from toddler to pensioner, able-bodied or disabled, practically everyone can enjoy the health benefits of cycling with the right equipment.

Brisk cycling burns around 500 calories per hour, helping to control weight.

You can vary your pace on short rides. On shorter rides or commutes you can vary your pace, warming up for around ten minutes, then try working every hill and relaxing on the down hills, or working five minutes hard, five minutes easy for around half an hour. Make sure you cool down and stretch afterwards. You can go steady on longer rides. Just enjoy being out on your bike and persuade a friend or partner to go with you. Maybe cycle out to a nice cafe and back, aiming to ride for a couple of hours. After around 90 minutes of unbroken steady cycling you will start to burn fat, but you will also need to think about using an energy drink or consuming low fat snacks if you are cycling for that length of time.

In essence: the health benefits of regular cycling include:

  • Increased cardiovascular fitness
  • Increased muscle strength and flexibility. Cycling strengthens your heart muscles, lowers resting pulse and reduces blood fat levels. A study found that regular cycling protected people from heart disease
  • Improved joint mobility
  • Decreased stress levels
  • Improved posture and coordination
  • Strengthened bones
  • Decreased body fat levels – it’s a great way to lose weight and get fit
  • Prevention or management of disease. Research has shown that if you cycle, the chance of bowel cancer is reduced. Some evidence suggests that regular cycling reduces the risk of breast cancer. Research has also found that people who cycle for more than 30 minutes per day have a 40% lower risk of developing diabetes
  • Reduced anxiety and depression: mental health conditions such as depression, stress and anxiety can be reduced by regular bike riding. This is due to the effects of the exercise itself and because of the enjoyment that riding a bike can bring.

For employers:

Under the Cycle to Work scheme, your organisation buys the commuting package at retail price and hires this to your employee over a fixed period of time. During this time, this balance is recovered through a reduction in the employee’s gross salary (meaning they make Tax and National Insurance savings – and you make National Insurance Contribution savings too!). At the end of the hire period, Cyclescheme steps in and lets employees know what their ownership options are.

There are lots of resources out there including https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/cycling-health-benefitshttps://www.britishcycling.org.uk/recreation/article/ww-Wise-Words---Cycling-and-Health-0 and https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/cycling-health-benefits/ which includes some important safety tips.