For many of us, fitting in exercise around our daily routine can be pretty difficult. Juggling family life, work life, some semblance of a social life, time is a precious commodity that many of us simply don’t want to spend sweating away at a gym. But exercise is crucial not only for our physical health, but our mental health too. Why not slot in your exercise as a means to not only get fitter, but also to save some money and lessen your impact on the environment? Read on to find out why cycling can easily improve your health!
Cycling as a matter of habit
It would take a whole article to cover all the health benefits of cycling! Cycling can improve your mental wellbeing for one, with a study by the YMCA finding that individuals with a physically active lifestyle recorded a wellbeing score which was 32 per cent higher than people who were inactive. There are obviously many ways to exercise, but cycling stands out as it allows you to take part in physical exercise, get outdoors and explore fresh surroundings.
Plus, cycling can be as solitary or social as you like. Graeme Obree, a former hour record holder, expanded on this aspect in particular by telling Cycling Weekly: “Getting out and riding will help [people suffering with depression] … Without cycling, I don’t know where I would be.”
Of course, your body will also benefit from the exercise cycling offers. For instance, the activity promotes weight loss — between 400 and 1,000 calories can be burnt per hour depending on your level of intensity and your weight — and it also builds muscle, especially around the calves, hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps.
Then, there’s the benefits to your general health. Cycling has been found to reduce the risk of you developing cancer or heart disease, improve your lung health, allow you to enjoy better sleep, and increase your brain power. It’s not just your health and wellbeing that will see improvements if you cycle more regularly either. Pedalling to and from a destination can actually take a shorter amount of time than completing the commute in a vehicle, depending on the distance and the level of traffic encountered of course.
There’s also the potential to save some money too. Cyclescheme.co.uk imagined a scenario back in 2011 whereby a cyclist travelled for five miles to work every day and then another five miles to get back home. Covering a 48-week year — holidays were taken out of the equation — the organisation found that 2,400 miles will be covered, which would account for around £320 in fuel costs if a vehicle was used to travel the distance. That sum was based on the average cost of fuel during 2011; just imagine the savings today seeing as though fuel prices have continued to skyrocket over the past decade.
Bringing cycling to your daily route
Considering the above, are you hoping to add cycling to your work travel route? Cycling Weekly has some handy tips about how to commute to work using a bicycle.
The UK’s best-selling cycling magazine has taken all the hard work out of looking through specialized bikes too. It recommends you get your hands on a road bike that is capable of riding through any weather condition without any fuss and which you can rely on with minimal maintenance. Consider fitting your bike with mudguards too — no one wants to arrive at the office with mud and muck covering their clothes — as well as wide tyres which will work to spread the load, improve comfort levels, and provide enhanced grip during wet weather.
Legally, you need to have a white front light and red rear light on your bike before dawn and after dusk, when it is. It’s advised that you use these lights throughout the day too though, as they’ll improve your visibility. You may also want to buy a backpack that you can fill with your essential work items and then carry over your shoulders while you cycle, or a pannier rack for your bike if you often carry a lot of stuff during a commute.
Next, you’ll need to be able to ride with confidence. To help, Cycling Weekly advises: “Hugging the curb often encourages drivers to pass closely, which will only increase any nervousness that caused you to do so in the first place — so avoid this and keep a safe distance that affords you room to swerve around a pot hole should you need to.
“When approaching junctions, check behind you and move into the centre of the lane when it’s safe to do so — this prevents anyone from overtaking or undertaking when it’s not safe to do so.”
For this, you need to be able to look behind yourself while riding with confidence. Cycling one-handed is another essential skill, as there will be times when you need to release one hand from the bike’s handlebars to indicate and tell other road users that you’re about to make a turn.
You’ll want a good bike lock to secure your bicycle while you’re at work too. It’s recommended that you apply one lock to the frame of the bike and then a cable lock to the wheels if they are attached by quick-release skewers. On the topic of security, try and leave your bike in a location that is monitored by CCTV too.
Be ready to head into the office after riding. Keep a pair of appropriate work shoes at work which you can quickly slip into once you’ve arrived, and pack some dry shampoo and wet wipes to look the part if your workplace doesn’t have its own shower.
There are many benefits available to you when you pick up cycling as a hobby and healthy habit! Making your commute cheaper and more enjoyable will certainly be added bonuses to your improved health.
Lee Dover is a senior copywriter at Mediaworks with an interest in sports as well as researching into healthier ways of living. He has a BA (Hons) in Magazine Journalism. Away from work, Lee is also a keen runner and is an athlete and coach for Houghton Harriers & Athletics Club. Since joining the club in 2015, Lee has competed in various road, track and cross country competitions — on a regional and national scale. Highlights of his running career to date include his victories at the 2017 Lambton Run 10K and the 2018 South Shields 10 Mile race. You can follow his progress on Twitter via the handle @leedover1.