A couple of parallel thoughts this week.
1. A couple of week’s back I attended the annual charity evening for those that have completed the annual Birmingham to London Cycle ride, held every July and organised by the Sikh Arts and Cultural Association. This year £15,000 was raised for Whizz Kids, a national charity that helps disabled children.
2. With this week being reduce wastage week. I also thought about how important it is to respect our environment – For example, often school runs and short trips are performed by car. Although one could argue that the road network makes it increasingly difficult to walk, run or cycle, the path to change has to come from us alone.
Apart from the environmental benefits, there is an enormous health benefit too. Getting on your bike regularly not only gets you where you want to go faster than a car, it is good for your heart and health.
Cycling everyday is an effective and enjoyable form of aerobic exercise. This is the type of exercise that is most effective at promoting good health. For example, cycling reduces the risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and the most common form of diabetes.
One rough calculation suggests that new cyclists covering short distances can reduce their risk of death (mainly due to the reduction of heart disease) by as much as 22 per cent. Cycling can be part of a programme to lose weight because it burns the energy supplied by a chocolate bar in an hour (about 300 calories). 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. That kind of cycling pattern also meets the Government’s latest target on exercise: that we should take part in some mild to moderate physical activity … five times a week*.
Cycling can have positive effects on how we feel too. Moderate exercise has been found to reduce levels of depression and stress, improve mood and raise self-esteem, and has also been found to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
*NB Always consult your Doctor, before you start any form of exercise regime, especially if you are not performed any exercise or physical activity for a while.
How cycling improves fitness
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. According to the study people who do not 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.
Who can cycle?
There are no real age barriers to cycling, and people of most fitness levels can cycle, slowly and gently if necessary. Anyone with heart disease or other conditions affecting their activity should, of course, consult their doctor before starting any exercise programme. Those of all body shapes and all but the most extreme body weights can ride a bike.
Most cyclists are ‘utility’ cyclists where the bike is a way of getting from A to B, and getting some exercise is an added bonus. Nearly three-quarters of journeys people make are of five miles or less, and these could be achievedby most people.
There are some great resources to read-up on cycling:
Now is also the right time to start thinking about the annual Birmingham to London cycle ride organised by the Sikh Art and Cultural Association. Run over 2 days during the 3rd weekend of July, you can work towards completing your centennial mile on the first day and finish the final 40 on the second. Every year over 240 riders take part and The Sikh Times also wonderfully sponsor the event too. Visit: www.charitybikeride.com