After a hiatus of nearly 34 years, I finally followed Norman Tebbit’s advice, for those that remember, and got on my bike. My reasons though were mainly weight and fitness related. So yes, as a middle-aged man I donned the dreaded lycra and joined the club. A couple of years on and I can honestly say I have thoroughly enjoyed cycling, getting out in the open air, especially during the interminable lockdowns has been a godsend. It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in, as a committed foodie I can attest to this, and the pace doesn’t matter, you just go at your own speed. So, what are the key benefits of cycling, no matter what your age.
Well firstly there are the environmental benefits of using pedal power as opposed to the good old combustion engine, you will certainly be doing your bit for the planet by reducing your carbon footprint. Just think of the benefit if we all got on our bike for those shorter car journeys. Another bonus is that you are not going to have to look for that elusive parking space.
**Mental Wellbeing **
Over the past year and a bit, we have all probably learned much more about the importance of mental wellbeing than we ever had before. The good news is that cycling can help, don’t just take it from me, The YMCA conducted a study that showed that people that were active had a much higher wellbeing score than those that were inactive. Cycling Weekly did a great piece with Graham Obree on depression. This world beating cyclist talked openly about depression and how cycling had helped him manage his condition, saying ““Getting out and riding will help [people suffering with depression]… Without cycling, I don’t know where I would be.”
Getting on your bike and going for a spin improves your mood, releases those endorphins which in turn helps to reduce stress. Better still most cycling clubs are incredibly welcoming when it comes to catering for different abilities for group rides. What better way to enjoy a ride than with some friends, socially distanced. Not only that it can help with boosting confidence and overall mood, but my wife can also attest to the latter.
**Recovering from injury and body strengthening **
In some cases, it can aid recovery, as the bike saddle holds the majority of your body weight, the pressure on your joints is very low and unlike running there is very little pressure from impact movement, though avoid the big road bumps where you can. Cycling improves helps to strengthen your leg muscles, targeting improvements in hamstrings, calves, glutes and quads. It also helps to improve your core, by working your abdominals and lower back. Combining all of these should help improve both your stability and posture.
Cycling helps build muscle and improves your metabolism, creating a virtuous circle of benefit as this in turn means you burn more calories even whilst resting. Combining this with some weight training and strengthening exercises doubles down on the benefits. Not only that but the strengthening and weight exercises helps improve your cycling fitness, posture and energy levels.
**Heart Health **
The British Heart Foundation say the following “Cycling is a good way to improve your fitness and heart health. Two short trips to the shops and back each day – about 30 minutes of daily cycling – will begin to benefit your cardiovascular system.”
Not only that but it helps in reducing the risk of conditions such as type 2 diabetes and strokes. I have a friend who believes that cycling has hugely helped him in managing his type 2 diabetes to such a level where there is very little need for medical intervention, except for the odd check-up.
Again, most of us will have learnt more about vitamin D over the past months than we ever had before. Being in the great outdoors means your body is absorbing more of this valuable vitamin, which is so good for bone strength as well as helping our immune system.
If anybody is still under any doubts about the huge benefits that cycling can bring then I implore you to read ‘Slow Puncture’ By Deb Bunt and Peter Berry. Pete was diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia and took up cycling which has literally been a real lifesaver. In the many cycling challenges, he has undertaken, he has inspired so many other people to get out ‘spinning’. So go on boldies give cycling a go, it’s a lot of fun and if nothing else it’s great to be able to stop midway for that slab of cake and a coffee. You will have earnt it.