You’ll tone up, boost your metabolic rate and stay young into the bargain. What’s not to love?
Simple to fit into your everyday life, cycling is an any-age, any-time sport. As with all forms of exercise, the more time you spend doing it, the greater the rewards. So if you want an easy, cheap way to stay fit, here are 10 reasons to hop on your bike:
1. It’s a 10 min fitness fix
‘Any time on a bike is time well spent – it doesn’t matter if you’ve got 10 minutes to spare or an hour,’ says Neil Atkinson, British Cycling’s recreation education manager. ‘Cycling is widely recognised as one of the best forms of exercise for everyone, from the very young to the wiser among us.’
2. It’s an all-body toner
Perching on the saddle tones and strengthens your lower back and stomach while pounding the pedals tones your thighs, buttocks and lower legs. It’s a pilates, yoga and body toning workout all in one!
3. It’s a good start for exercise phobes
If you’re really unfit, cycle a round trip of just 3km three times a week and you’ll soon feel the difference. Naturally, the more time you spend cycling, the more you’ll improve. So keep with it!
4. You’ll arrive at work smiling
Cycling to work is a great stress reliever because you get time to yourself but it also helps to release endorphins that give you a natural high. It’s also cheaper, healthier and better for the environment than driving or using public transport.
5. It’s kinder to your joints
If you’re struggling with excess weight and find it hard to exercise, cycling could be the answer as it takes the strain off joints – around 70% of your weight is distributed to the saddle, handlebars and pedals.
6. Your brain will get a boost
Getting out and about in the great outdoors keeps you mentally stimulated and can also do wonders for your mood. So if wake up feeling grumpy you know what to do!
7. It’ll keep you young
A spin on your trusty bike will help keep you young. Even occasional cyclists have a level of fitness equivalent to non-cyclists 10 years younger, according to a UK study.
8. It’s great for your heart
Cycling can halve your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). A study of 10,000 civil servants found those who cycled 20 miles a week were half as likely to suffer CHD as their non-cycling colleagues.
9. It’s a cheap workout
Cycling tones and trims and you’ll get a heart-pumping workout en route to work, school or the shops that would cost a fortune at the gym. Importantly it also builds muscle, which means you keep boosting your metabolic rate long after you’ve finished your ride.
10. You can do it with the kids
Children as young as two can enjoy the benefits, thanks to balance bikes or scoots. ‘These are bikes without pedals, which teach children the balance necessary to ride a bicycle,’ says Neil Atkinson. ‘Once children have developed that skill, the move to pedal bikes is much smoother than the difficult transition they used to face when their stabilisers were removed.’
HOW TO CYCLE LIKE A PRO
Position the saddle so it’s comfortable for you – visit britishcycling.org.uk for top tips. Cycling shorts, which are slightly padded, will reduce the impact of the saddle. If the thought of Lycra is too mortifying, no problem – you can wear the shorts under trousers or a skirt and no one need know! If you’re on too low a gear your legs will spin around and you won’t get anywhere fast. Set the gears higher so you have to put more pressure through your legs and you’ll find the going much easier. For greater efficiency and power, strap your feet to the pedals. This is not for beginners so don’t attempt it until you’re ready.
HFG’S TOP CYCLING TIPS
- Cheap bikes can be a false economy – better to buy a good second-hand one from a bike shop.
- A hybrid bike – a cross between road and cross-country bikes – gives a comfortable ride for road cyclists.
- Adjust the saddle so that when you’re cycling your leg is still slightly bent when the pedal is at its lowest point.
- Handlebars are usually set at their lowest setting in the shop, so raise or lower them to roughly the same height as the saddle.
- Check your tyre pressures before longer journeys and always take a hand pump with you.