Healthy Living

Cycling Keeps you fit and healthy

Cycling is one of the best ways to get fit and healthy. It helps your heart work better and it deals with excess calories just as effectively as avoiding junk food. In the Western world, coronary heart disease and obesity are two of our biggest health problems. So it’s never been more important to get on your bike.

Unlike most forms of exercise, cycling can easily be integrated into everyday life. You can’t swim to work or bench-press your way to the shops but you can easily go by bike. What about walking?

That’s good for you too, but a bike will take you four times as far in the same amount of time.

Cycling is more likely to get you in shape than going to the gym.

That’s because the key to keeping fit is not intensive exercise but regular exercise. Doctors recommend that adults exercise for half an hour or more each day, with a minimum of 20-30 minutes three times a week. You can easily achieve that on your bike because any ‘workouts’ begin at your own back door – and they’re free.

What’s more, cycling is fun.

Staring at a wall in the gym is enough to sap anyone’s resolve to keep fit, because the only reason to be there is to whip yourself into shape. It’s all stick and no carrot. On a bike, getting fit is a side effect. The reason you ride is either to get from A to B or to get out into the open air, to explore the countryside and smell the flowers.

Leisure cycling is booming in the UK. Cycling for pleasure is an away-from-it-all antidote to our busy, stressful lives. That’s true whatever type of cycling takes your fancy. You could go for a gentle ride on a traffic-free cycle route with the kids, with a picnic along the way. Or perhaps you’d prefer a spin through the lanes on a road bike, or an adrenaline fuelled mountain bike ride on a rocky forest trail.

However you choose to do it, cycling will make you leaner and fitter.

Riding at an easy pace burns around 300 calories an hour, doubling or trebling for intense riding. So just half an hour a day pottering on your bike will burn 55,000 calories in one year. That’s a loss of over 7kg of fat – more than a stone – with no other lifestyle changes required.

Half an hour of cycling a day is enough to halve your chance of coronary heart disease too, and it will lower your blood pressure. It’s no wonder that regular cyclists enjoy a fitness level equal to someone 10 years younger, take fewer days off sick from work, and have a life expectancy two years longer.

Getting back into cycling is easy.

We say something is ‘like riding a bike’ because you never forget. As a form of exercise, cycling is forgiving rather than relentless. You can catch your breath whenever you need to: just freewheel! It’s much gentler on your joints than running or squash, because the bike bears your weight.

If you’ve already got a bike, take it to a specialist cycle shop for a service and get them to fit or change components so that it suits you better.

If you need to buy new, again, go to a cycle shop and spell out what you’ll use your new bike for. You’ll pay a bit more compared to a discount shop but that buys you expertise: a specialist will sell you the right bike and will set it up so that it fits you comfortably.

If you’re not sure what bike you want, you probably need a hybrid: the default, non-specialised bike. Mountain bikes are for technical off-road trails and are tractor-slow on city streets, while road (racing) bikes are meant for competition, fun or fitness riding on smooth tarmac. If you’d prefer a classic roadster for sit-up-and-beg commuting or a folding bike that will collapse down to the size of a small suitcase, then those – and other varieties – are also available.

Expect to pay from around £200-£250($300-$350) for a basic but functional bike, and from around £500 ($800) for a higher-performance version. Avoid cheap look-alikes at £99($160) and be suspicious of any sub-£1,000($1600) bike with full suspension.

These cycling tips come to you from CS Healthcare, the specialist provider of medical health insurance for all parts of the Civil Service, Public Sector and Not-for-Profit organisations.

Karla Urwitz
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