Category: Cycling

The benefits of cycling for children and families

Children love cycling – it’s fast and fun, and gives them freedom and independence to get around. And you don’t need to wait until your kids are old enough to ride themselves to start enjoying the benefits of cycling as a family.

A girl cycling with her mother

Whether you were a keen cyclist before you had children, or you’ve just started admiring your neighbour’s new road bike, you may assume your cycling days are over now you have a young family in tow. Wrong! Having very young children is no barrier to cycling, and in fact this can be one of the best times to cycle.

Why cycle with babies and toddlers?

The huge range of bike seats, trailers and children’s bicycles means it’s easier than ever to cycle with young children. If you’re using a bike seat, your baby can cycle with you from around 12 months – younger if you have a specialist ‘freight’ bike or a trailer. Then, as they grow older you can progress to using a ‘tag-along’ bike, or buy them their own tricycle or bike with stabilisers.

Here’s why it’s good to start young:

  • improve your fitness
  • boost your positive mental attitude, and your toddler’s – cycling can help to relieve stress
  • interaction improves your bond with your toddler
  • travel around town for free
  • introduce a healthy activity to your children while they are young
  • do something together in the fresh air as a family that’s free and fun

Getting your kids pedaling

Cycling is brilliant for your kids – it helps them get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day, which one third of children don’t currently achieve. And, once you’ve invested in bikes and some basic kit, it costs very little but provides so many benefits:

  • many teachers report that kids who walk and cycle to school are more alert and ready to learn than those who arrive by car
  • it’s fantastic fun and, for many kids, can feel much more exciting than travelling by car
  • cycling can help kids get to know their local area and feel part of it
  • good travel habits learned young will last a lifetime
  • cyclists breathe in less pollution from traffic than car drivers

Health benefits for you

Jump on a bike and cycle with your kids and you could see the kind of health benefits gym members dream of:

  • cycling raises your metabolic rate, helping you to keep the weight off
  • regular cyclists are as fit as an average person 10 years younger
  • cycling firms the thighs and bottom, and can even help tone the tummy muscles

And don’t stop at your immediate family – cycling spans the generations. It can be enjoyed by people of all ages, so grandparents can get involved too. It’s easier to learn to cycle when you’re young and it’s a life skill that your kids will have forever.

Source: www.sustrans.org.uk

Cycling tips for beginners

Cycling is a truly invigorating and liberating experience, enjoyed by people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Whether you’re cycling to work, to school, to the shops or just for fun, the humble bicycle is an easy way to get more active.

Regular cycling can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It can also boost your mood and keep your weight under control.

This guide is designed to make cycling a safe and enjoyable experience for beginners, and provide you with tips on staying motivated.

Before you start

For most people, cycling is a safe and effective form of exercise. If you have any health concerns or an existing medical problem, see your doctor before you start.

For short journeys, any good working bike will do. You might have an old shopping bike or a bargain mountain bike that you could use.

A 30-minute ride will count towards your recommended weekly activity target.

If you’re buying a second-hand bike or you have an old bike that’s been gathering dust, consider having it serviced at a specialist bike shop to ensure it’s roadworthy.

If you’re buying a new bike, there are many models to choose from. Hybrids, road bikes and mountain bikes are the most popular.

A specialist bike shop will advise you on the correct frame size and help you select a bike to suit your budget and the type of cycling you want to do.

There are also bikes available for people with disabilities.

Remember, wearing a bicycle helmet is compulsory in Australia.

Starting out

If you haven’t cycled much before or you’re out of the habit of cycling, find yourself a traffic-free area to start off in, such as your local park.

Practise riding single-handed so you can make hand signals, and get comfortable looking, over both shoulders to improve your visual awareness. Some people prefer to attach a small mirror to their bike’s handelbars or helmet to help them see what’s behind them.

Before you start cycling in traffic, check the road rules and regulations for cyclists.

For health benefits, adults and older adults are recommended to do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.

Children and young people are recommended to do at least one hour (60 minutes) of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every day.

A 30-minute ride, where your breathing is quicker and deeper, will count towards your recommended weekly activity target.

If you’re just getting started, take it slowly and increase your cycle rides gradually. Any improvement on what you currently do is beneficial.

Ensure you stop and seek medical advice if you are feeling unwell.

Staying motivated

Make it a habit

The easiest way to ensure you cycle regularly is to use your bike as a means of everyday transport. If you want some company on your bike ride, whether it’s to work or just for fun, find a cycling pal.

Cycle to work

Commuting by bike is cheap, green and one of the easiest ways to fit exercise into your routine. Ask your office manager or human resources representative if there are showers and bike storage available.

Cycle to school

Riding to school is a great way to get the kids more active. Cycling has many benefits for children such as improved health, confidence and concentration. Parents may want to accompany younger children, which makes it a good way for grown-ups to get cycling too.

Mix it up

There are many places to cycle in cities and the countryside. Cycling is an ideal way for friends and families to explore their neighbourhood and beyond.

Join a bike ride

From charity rides to park cycles, signing up for a bike ride is a great way to stay motivated and experience the great outdoors.

Source: healthdirect.gov.au

15 Benefits of cycling: why cycle for exercise

Thinking about joining the cycling family? Here are 15 reasons you should get on your bike this summer

The benefits of cycling are almost as endless as the country lanes you could soon be exploring. If you’re considering taking up cycling, and weighing it up against other potential activities. Then we’re here to tell you that cycling is hands down the best option.

Admittedly, we’re biased – but there are an awful lot of good reasons to choose bike riding as your newest pass time. Here are just a few…

1. Cycling improves mental well-being

Cycling makes you happy: fact. (Chris Catchpole)

A study by the YMCA showed that people who had a physically active lifestyle had a wellbeing score 32 per cent higher than inactive individuals.

There are so many ways that exercise can boost your mood: there’s the basic release of adrenalin and endorphins, and the improved confidence that comes from achieving new things (such as completing a sportive or getting closer to that goal).

Cycling combines physical exercise with being outdoors and exploring new views. You can ride solo – giving you time to process worries or concerns. Or you can ride with a group which broadens your social circle.

Former Hour Record holder Graeme Obree has suffered from depression through much of his life, and told us: “Getting out and riding will help [people suffering with depression]… Without cycling, I don’t know where I would be.”

2.Cycling promotes weight loss

Weight loss is one benefit of cycling

Weight loss is one benefit of cycling

The simple equation, when it comes to weight loss, is ‘calories out must exceed calories in’. So you need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Cycling burns calories: between 400 and 1000 an hour, depending on intensity and rider weight.

Of course, there are other factors: the make-up of the calories you consume affects the frequency of your refuelling. As does the quality of your sleep and of course the amount of time you spend burning calories will be influenced by how much you enjoy your chosen activity.

Assuming you enjoy cycling, you’ll be burning calories. And if you eat well, you should lose weight.

3. Cycling builds muscle

Benefits of cycling

Build muscle on the bike

The resistance element of cycling means that it doesn’t just burn fa. It also builds muscle – particularly around the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Muscle is leaner than fat. And people with a higher percentage of muscle burn more calories even when sedentary.

To be clear – you won’t end up with quads like a track sprinter unless you invest a serious amount of time at the squat rack. But you will develop a nice toned derriere.

4. Enjoy second breakfasts

benefits of cycling

Chow down breakfast before AND after a ride

If you decide to cycle to work, you’ve got a great excuse to add a couple of guilt free snacks to your day.

Since a half hour ride to work should be burning between 200 and 500 calories, you’ve got a license to enjoy a smug second breakfast at your desk.

If you’re serious about burning fat, you could do your morning ride fasted (sans breakfast). But that’s mainly a habit reserved for the most dedicated of nutters.

5. Better lung health

You won’t be alone if this point seems contradictory to common sense. But a recent study suggests that people who ride a bike are actually exposed to fewer dangerous fumes than those who travel by car.

A study by the Healthy Air Campaign, Kings College London, and Camden Council, saw air pollution detectors fitted to a driver, a bus user, a pedestrian and a cyclist using a busy route through central London.

The results showed that the driver experienced five times higher pollution levels than the cyclist, as well as three and a half more than the walker and two and a half times more than the bus user. Long story short: the cyclist won.

6. Cuts heart disease and cancer risk

benefits of cycling

Up your heart health and life expectancy by bike

Cycling raises your heart rate and gets the blood pumping round your body, and it burns calories, limiting the chance of your being overweight. As a result, it’s among a selection of forms of exercise recommended by the NHS as being healthy ways to cut your risk of developing major illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.

New evidence was presented in the form of a study conducted by the University of Glasgow, earlier this year. Researchers studied over 260,000 individuals over the course of five years – and found that cycling to work can cut a riders risk of developing heart disease or cancer in half. The full study can be read here.

Dr. Jason Gill of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences commented: “Cycling all or part of the way to work was associated with substantially lower risk of adverse health outcomes.”

7. Cycling is low impact

benefits of cycling

Cycling is a low impact form of exercise

Many of the upshots we discuss when we talk about the benefits of cycling are exercise related. Reckon it might be easier to just go for a run?

Running is weight bearing – and therefore injury rates are higher. Cycling, by contrast to running, is not weight bearing.

When scientists compared groups of exercisers – long distance runners and cyclists, they found the runners suffered 133-144 per cent more muscle damage, 256 per cent more, inflammation and DOMS 87 per cent higher

Whilst cycling is less likely to result in an overuse injury, they can still crop up. A professional bike fit is a good idea – skimping here is a false economy if you end up spending more cash on physio.

The lack of weight bearing also means that cycling does not do as much to increase bone density as other sports – so it’s a good idea to add a little strength training in to your programme.

8. Cycling saves time

Compare these three experiences:

  1. Get in the car, sit in traffic, queue to get into the car park, park, pay to park, arrive
  2. Walk to bus stop, wait for bus, complain about bus being late, get on bus (pay), watch as it takes you round-the-houses, arrive, about half a mile from your destination
  3. Get on the bike, filter past traffic, lock the bike, arrive

Short journeys contribute massively to global pollution levels, and often involve a fair amount of stationary staring at the bumper in front. Get on the bike, and you’ll save on petrol or cash on public transport, as well as time.

 

9. Cycling improves navigational skills

benefits of cycling

Get lost in the lanes, and let your sense of direction get you home. (Andy Jones)

In the world of car sat navs and Google maps, sometimes there’s just not that much incentive to sharpen your natural sense of direction (however superior or otherwise it may be).

Unless you’ve invested in a GPS cycling computer with mapping capabilities such as a Garmin 1000, then getting out and exploring the lanes can provide essential exercise for your internal mapping capabilities, giving you (with practice) a better idea of which way is West.

10. Improve your sex life

benefits of cycling

Cycling could improve your sex life

Most of us know that sex is a good thing, but not everyone knows that it’s actually good for your overall health. In fact, regular sex could indeed prolong your life.

Dr Michael Roizen, who chairs the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, says: “The typical man who has 350 orgasms a year, versus the national average of around a quarter of that, lives about four years longer.” Similar findings were revealed for women.

So can cycling improve your sex life? Well – it builds some rather essential muscle groups. Dr Matthew Forsyth, urologist and keen cyclist from Portland, Oregon, commented: “All these muscles [worked on the bike] are used during intercourse. The better developed these muscles, the longer and more athletic intercourse will be.”

Add in that – thanks to spending plenty of time showing off all the lumps and bumps in skintight lycra (and occasionally double-oh-AND-seven) – cyclists tend to be fairly comfortable in their own skin, and you’ve got a recipe for success.

11. Sleep better

benefits of cycling

Ride a bike for a good night’s sleep

It probably isn’t rocket science that tiring yourself out on the bike will improve your sleep – but now it’s been proven. Researchers at the University of Georgia studied men and women aged 20 to 85 over a period of 35 years, and found that a drop in fitness of 2 per cent for men and 4 per cent for women resulted in sleep problems.

Dr Rodney Dishman was one of the lead authors, and commented: “The steepest decline in cardiorespiratory fitness happens between ages 40 and 60. This is also when problems of sleep duration and quality are elevated.”

Looking for causes behind the link the scientists suggested it could be a reduction in anxiety, brought about by exercise, that elevates the ability to sleep. Exercise also protects against weight gain with age, which is another cause of sleep dysfunction.

12. Boost your brain power

benefits of cycling

Up the power of your noggin

Exercise has been repeatedly linked to brain health – and the reduction of cognitive changes that can leave us vulnerable to dementia later in life.

A 2013 study found that during exercise, cyclists’ blood flow in the brain rose by 28 per cent, and up to 70 per cent in specific areas. Not only that, but after exercise, in some areas blood flow remained up by 40 per cent even after exercise.

Improved blood flow is good because the red stuff delivers all sorts of goodies that keep us healthy – and the study concluded that we should cycle for 45-60 minutes, at 75-85 per cent of max ‘hear rate reserve’ (max heart rate minus resting heart rate) four times a week. Nothing stopping you riding more, of course.

13. Improve handling and spacial awareness

 

benefits of cycling

Improve your handling skills – on and off the bike!

Cycling isn’t just about raising your heart rate and getting you breathless – unless you’re doing it on Zwift. There are technical elements – climbing, descending and  cornering all teach you to use your body weight to get the bike to go where you want it to.

Gaining the skills to manage these technical elements can provide a massive confidence boost – especially when you start to see improvement. Plus, you might just find your abilities to manage that dodgy shopping trolley with the wonky wheels greatly improves.

14. Strengthen your immune system

Sleep well, eat well and your immune system should be improved

Dr. David Nieman and his colleagues at Appalachian State University studied 1000 adults up to the age of 85. They found that exercise had huge benefits on the health of the upper respiratory system – thus reducing instances of the common cold.

Nieman said: “People can knock down sick days by about 40 percent by exercising aerobically on most days of the week while at the same time receiving many other exercise-related health benefits.”

Professor Tim Noakes, of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, also tells us that mild exercise can improve our immune system by increasing production of essential proteins and waking up lazy white blood cells.

Why choose the bike? Cycling to work can reduce the time of your commute, and free you from the confines of germ infused buses and trains.

There is a but. Evidence suggests that immediately after intense exercise, such as an interval training session, your immune system is lowered – but adequate recovery such as eating and sleeping well can help to reverse this.

15. Grow your social circle

Cycling is an incredibly sociable sport. Grassroots cycling revolves around cycling club culture – which in turn revolves around the Saturday or Sunday club run: several hours of riding at an intensity that enables easy chat, interrupted only by a cafe stop (or the occasional puncture).

Joining a cycling club or group is an excellent way to grow your social circle, and if you’re new to riding – you’ll probably find all the maintenance and training advice you may have been looking for there, too.

Source: Cycling weekly page

The perks of taking up cycling

1. It’s easy on the joints.

When you sit on a bike, you put your weight on a pair of bones in the pelvis called the ischial tuberosities, unlike walking, when you put your weight on your legs. “That makes it good for anyone with joint pain or age-related stiffness”, says Dr. Safran-Norton.

A cyclist's leg.

2. Pushing pedals provides an aerobic workout.

That’s great for your heart, brain, and blood vessels. Aerobic exercise also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals – which may make you feel young at heart.

Two people doing cartwheels by the beach.

3. Cycling builds muscle.

In the power phase of pedaling (the downstroke), you use the gluteus muscles in the buttocks, the quadriceps in the thighs, and the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calves. In the recovery phase (backstroke, up-stroke, and overstroke), you use the hamstrings in the back of the thighs and the flexor muscles in the front of the hips.

Image result for muscles fit woman

Cycling works other muscles, too. You use abdominal muscles to balance and stay upright, and you use your arm and shoulder muscles to hold the handlebars and steer.

4. It helps with everyday activities.

“The benefits carry over to balance, walking, standing, endurance, and stair climbing”, says Dr. Safran-Norton.

Image result for nature exercise

5. Pedaling builds bone. 

“Resistance activities, such as pushing pedals, pull on the muscles, and then the muscles pull on the bone, which increases bone density”, says Dr. Safran-Norton.

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