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By Exercise Expert


Wednesday, July 8, 2009.


It’s the aerial shots of the cyclists spiraling their way up the hairpin bends on those grueling alpine climbs that impress me most. Every summer we watch the TV in disbelief as to how these men can endure so much for so long on the Tour de France. It's enough to inspire even the shakiest cyclist to don their helmet, get the spandex out of the mothballs and give the old bike another go.


Apart from aspiring to the pinnacle of stamina and endurance that these iron men display, as well as the lean bodies and perfectly chiseled thighs (erm…have we said too much?), there are many other good health reasons to get on your bike. We have a little cycling advice to peddle to you…


1. Cycling is one of the most accessible ways to exercise


You can ride a bicycle almost anywhere, at any time of the year, and without spending a fortune. Many people are put off doing certain sports because of the high level of skill that seems to be required, or perhaps because they can’t commit to a team sport due to time pressures. Most of us know how to cycle and once you have learned you don’t forget. All you need is a bike, a half an hour here or there when it suits, and a bit of confidence.


2. Safe for joints


Since it is low impact, cycling is suitable for all age groups from 6-60. Many people cannot do certain sports because of the pressure it puts on their joints (like running or aerobics), particularly older individuals. The bicycle takes the weight off the body so you put much less pressure on the joints whilst cycling.


3. It helps promote weight loss


Steady cycling burns approximately 300 calories per hour. If you cycle for 30 minutes every day you would burn 11 pounds of fat in a year. Since it helps build muscle, cycling will also boost your metabolic rate long after you’ve hopped off the saddle.


                  Tesco Weight Loss Retreat 


4. Increases muscle tone


Cycling improves general muscle function gradually, with little risk of over exercise or strain. Regular cycling strengthens leg muscles and is great for the mobility of hip and knee joints. You will gradually begin to see an improvement in the muscle tone of your legs, thighs, bum and hips.


5. It improves cardiovascular fitness


Cycling is a fantastic aerobic exercise to improve fitness. Studies have shown that cycling to work will increase cardiovascular fitness by 3-7%. Cycling uses the largest muscle groups (i.e. the legs!), raising heart rate to benefit stamina and fitness.


6. It improves heart health


According to the British Medical Association, cycling just 20 miles a week can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 50%. A major study of 10,000 civil servants suggested that those who cycled 20 miles over the period of a week were half as likely to suffer heart disease as their non-cycling colleagues. This finding was independent of other factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood cholesterol and blood pressure.


7. You can fit it into a busy lifestyle


Little or no time has to be lost, as bike travel can be integrated into your daily routine to travel to work, to perform errands, or to simply get outside for some fresh air and exercise. Approximately half of all journeys to work are less than two miles in length. It will only take the average unfit person around 15 minutes to cycle that distance.


8. Can help reduce stress


Any regular exercise can reduce stress and depression and improve well being and self esteem; cycling can add the benefit of beautiful surroundings.


9. Cycling reduces pollution


Commuting by bike reduces pollution that causes asthma and bronchitis. Cycling instead of driving will reduce the 38 million tonnes of carbon produced each year by British motorists and improve the quality of your air. Surprisingly, a cyclist is also less exposed to air pollution than a commuting motorist.


10. Improves lung function


Regular cycling improves lung function, which is extremely beneficial to anyone suffering from bronchitis or asthma.


If there were a disadvantage of cycling, it would have to be the risk sharing roads occupied by motorized vehicles. However, the British Medical Association has estimated that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by twenty to one.


Meanwhile, there are a few safety measures you should definitely take before taking to your saddle.


· The usual health warning applies: if you haven’t been active for some time, consult with your doctor before you start cycling.


· Always wear a well-fitting cycle helmet, off road as well as on road.


· Wear bright colours and use lights after dark.


· Always follow the Highway Code.


· To ride safely the bike must be well maintained. You should learn to carry out simple repairs and always carry a basic toolkit and a spare inner tube.


After a few months of cycling regularly, it may be the only spare tyre you carry…


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