Cycling is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise that is extremely easy to fit into your everyday life. Not only a form of exercise, but a mode of transport; if you choose to cycle you need not waste any time at the gym, but instead get your recommended 150 minutes a week in during the commute to school, work or even just to the shops.
Benefits of cycling
A triple benefit; cycling as a mode of transport not only helps you keep fit, but also saves you cash and helps reduce your carbon footprint.
As a low impact form of exercise, it is also gentler on your joints that other high-impact forms of exercise, such as running. This means you are at less risk of injury, but it is still vigorous enough to help you tone up and get into shape, as it uses all the major muscle groups.
For the best results NHS choices recommends riding for at least 150 minutes every week (2 and a half hours). You can easily achieve this by cycling to work a few times a week and then a short ride at weekends.
Cycling is also excellent for improving your strength, stamina and, like other forms of exercise, your health in general. Those that cycle regularly are at less risk of developing serious diseases such as a heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and arthritis. Regular exercise is also known to improve mental as well as physical health as it boosts the mood and can protect you from depression.
Cycling is also a very fun way to get fit. By cycling outside it can provide a sense of freedom, thrill and adventure that other activities can lack, meaning that you will be more likely to keep up the habit. Cycling is also good family exercise, and encouraging your children to get into cycling with you can be fun and great exercise for the whole family.
For most people cycling is a safe form of exercise, but if you have any existing conditions or health concerns the NHS advise checking with your GP or physiotherapist before you start.
If you are good to go, depending on the type of cycling you want to do and where, you will need to get a bike. Any good working bike will do for short journeys and it is likely that you will have a workable bike somewhere at home that will be suitable for your needs. However, if you are buying a bike, a bike shop can help you select a one that suits your purposes and budget. Remember, if you are buying a second-hand bike to get an expert to declare it road worthy before using.
Many workplaces also offer a cycle to work scheme. If your workplace does this, it will provide you with a more affordable way of buying a new bike and safety equipment.
One great way to get more involved in cycling is to join an official bike ride. This will help you stay motivated, make new friends and can be a wonderful experience of the great outdoors. If you feel ready you could even choose to complete a long-distance charity ride – not only will this give you the opportunity to raise money for the cause of your choice, but will also give you an extraordinary sense of achievement!
NHS Choices recommends that beginners unused to the roads should start out in traffic free areas such as the local park. Here you can practise riding single handed so you can correctly make proper hand indications and looking over your shoulder to improve awareness.
When riding on the roads take care to follow the Highway Code and to check the current rules for cyclists. You should also take all the proper safety measures by wearing a helmet, and if cycling at night, wearing high-visibility clothing.