Time to Get Cycling for Bike Week

Bike Week is all about encouraging cycling to be a part of our daily life. This can be commuting to work or the shops, a cycle with the kids after school, or even just as part of your day’s exercise. Bike Week promotes cycling as a form of transport and exercise for everyone, every day. So, the important question to ask is: why should we cycle?

There are several great benefits to cycling that should get you onto a bike in no time! First and foremost, cycling is a low-impact exercise. This means less pressure through our joints and muscles when riding. In fact, when compared to running, cyclists were found to have less muscle damage, less inflammation and less muscle soreness post exercise (Nieman et al. 2014). Choosing a low-impact activity like cycling is a good place to start when beginning or re-thinking your exercise journey, especially if you have arthritis or joint problems. Riding a bike or stationary bike can help increase your heart rate, blood flow and joint range through exercise to establish good fitness changes without the impact that exercises like boot camp or running might have on the joints.

Riding a bike also comes with great health benefits. Cycling aids weight loss, helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, builds muscle tone and promotes better lung health. Depending on the individual and intensity you ride at, cycling can burn between 400-1000 calories an hour (Bean & Bradford 2017). This means that whether you are commuting or riding to the shops, you are burning calories to help control your weight. In addition to this, adding resistance to your cycle in the form of hills or gear changes also builds muscle, especially through the glutes, calves, hamstrings and quadriceps.

A recent study looking into the benefits of cycle commuting or a mix between walking and cycle commuting over a 5-year period found that cycling was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer (Gill et al. 2017). In fact, regular commuting by bike for an average of 30 miles a week was found to reduce the incidence of heart disease by 46%, cancer by 45% and reduce the risk of death by any cause by 41%. It is important to note that while walking still showed a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cycling was found to be better due to the changes in heart rate and exertion when performing this exercise (Gill et al. 2017).

Cycling can also benefit your lung health. According to the Healthy Air Campaign, bike riders have also been found to experience less air pollution when compared with drivers, walkers and bus users. It seems odd, but individuals travelling in cars were exposed to more pollution from fumes of their own car and other vehicles, where riders were exposed to less fumes, especially when travelling on quieter roads, and created less road pollution themselves (Client Earth 2014).

Finally, riding a bike is also time and cost-effective. Cycling replaces the time you sit in cars, trains or buses for commuting exercise. This means getting your body moving away from the sedentary nature of sitting and placing activity and exercise into your normal routine without trying to find extra time in your day to get to the park or gym. Cycling also means no more traffic delays which, depending on where you work, can even be a more time efficient way to get to work. Riding a bike is also a very cost-effective way of getting around. Cycling can help eliminate fuel and parking ticket costs and reduce overall government road maintenance fees.

With all this in mind, cycling is a great form of exercise and transport that we can see large benefits from mentally, physically and financially. To find a Bike Week event near you, go to the website http://bikeweek.org.uk/ and start making cycling part of your day.

Bean, A., & Bradford, D. (2017) Calories burned cycling: everything you need to know. Cycling Weekly. Retrieved from: http://www.cyclingweekly.com/fitness/nutrition/calories- burned-cycling-everything-you-need-to-know-326362

Client Earth (2014) London air pollution: which mode of transport has the highest exposure?- video. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2014/aug/12/london-air-pollution- public-transport-video
Gill et al (2017) Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality: prospective cohort study. BMJ doi:https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j1456
Nieman, D et al (2014) Immune and inflammation responses to a 2-day period of intensified running versus cycling. Brain Behav Immun. 39:180-5.