Cycling… The beauty of the benefits & the myths of the risks
I am not biased. Before I was a cyclist I was a runner, tried rowing, dabbled in triathlon and played multiple sports at school. Cycling came later, as it does for many people and at an ever increasing rate around the globe.
Many of you may have heard the notion that ‘Cycling is the new Golf’ and there is good reason for that. Cycling is a sport, recreation, fitness and transportation choice for many people due to its exceptional health benefits.
The beauty of the benefits
Cardiovascular & Muscular Endurance – Cycling is an ideal mode to improve cardiovascular fitness. The continuous nature of cycling means heart is constantly required to work. It is excellent for beginning a fitness regime as a lower intensity heart rate can be maintained for longer intervals.
Weight Loss – The participation time possible is greater than most other sports enabling expenditure of larger amounts of kilojoules compared with other sports / activities.
Muscular Strength – Riding in the wind, up hills and using higher gear on flat roads requires greater recruitment of muscle fibers which encourages improvement in muscle strength and yes increased muscle tone!
Agility/ Coordination & balance – Cycling requires a unique combination of full body coordination balance and stability of the legs, torso and upper body coupled with hand eye and cognitive coordination for navigating.
Social – Some may not realise but its possible to ride for hours enjoying great conversation to the person next to you! Finding a good cycling bunch can introduce you to a complete new network of contacts and friends. A coffee after (or during!) a ride is a common occurrence.
Creativity & Mind Health – Being outside exercising in fresh air and receiving oxygen to the brain can enhance the space for creative thoughts and improve mental health.
Time on the bike can provide the critical point of balance which can help amid the speed of everyday life.
Lifestyle Efficiency – The ability to use cycling as a mode of transport to or from work or other activities increases the sought after efficiency of squeezing in the necessary exercise time into your day. You can virtually ride when and where you want, you don’t need to worry committing to times or other people. It can also be quite cost effective compared with other sports and gym memberships.
The myths of the risks
Traffic and Air Pollution – A recent piece published in Environmental Health Perspectives illustrated health benefits in people adopting cycling as their mode of transport. Further, a recent review published in the British Medical Journal positively shows that cycling in a large city, compared with relevant car usage, yields health benefits that far outweigh the risks.
If you live in urban areas there are options. Cycling is safer in numbers, join a club or find local group rides. Choose your ride and route wisely when possible. Early mornings, low traffic areas, national parks, cycle paths provide a few solutions.
Lack of Confidence – AustCycle is Australia’s only national cycling accreditation program and is the industry standard for teaching bike handling skills to the community in on and off-road environments. Look here for your local provider.
Sore Buttocks – This can be easily avoided with good saddle selection, proper fitting cycling shorts / ‘chamois’. Adoption of common cycling practices such as using chamois cream is quite normal along with an understanding that comfort adaptation happens fast!
High Maintenance – Striking a relationship with a good local bike shop will provide you with all information you need to get started and maintain your bike in good working order.
Too Expensive – With recent growth of the bicycling community in Australia there is an ever competitive bike industry offering quality bikes at extremely reasonable prices. www.bikeexchange.com.au
Equipped with research, information, practical tips, and an honest health risk / benefit outlay it may just persuade you to start pushing the pedals and initiate a cycle of change towards better health… for life!
The views expressed in this blog are the authors and not necessarily those expressed by health.com.au
Posted by Rachel Neylan – Guest writer for health.com.au