One of the major milestones in a child’s life is the moment they learn to ride a bike. The proud look on a parents face when they brag; ‘my child can ride without stabilisers!’ is on par with learning to walk, passing their first exams and learning to drive. However so many of us learn the act of cycling at a young age, carry on riding until adolescence then learn to drive or start getting buses, trains or lifts everywhere.
The exhilaration of cycling can barely be beaten and yet most of us prefer other methods of travel once we hit a certain age. Recently the National Travel Survey, conducted by the Department for Transport, found that the miles cycled per person have gone up slightly but people are taking fewer trips out on their bike than they once did. This indicates that the quick bike to the shop or workplace has declined and many of us are opting to jump in the car instead.
With more cycle to work schemes, the availability of bikes and the rising costs associated with driving and public transport now is the time to change our attitude towards cycling, and bet back on our bikes.
The benefits of cycling can far outweigh the drawbacks and you have to remind yourself of those, especially on the rainy days when it’s possible to just jump in the car to go to your local convenience store.
The biggest benefit of cycling is how good for your health it is. A short cycle can boost your metabolism and balance out your calorie intake for the day. Cycling is a great cardio workout which will stimulate the lungs and heart, this will help maintain a good level of blood pressure and help you lose weight; a bike commute can help you lose 500-600 calories per hour. Cycling has been known to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in the body and those who cycle regularly are more likely to be protected from arterial disease. Cycling will also tones your muscles, and is easier for maintaining a stable weight than other forms of exercise.
The impact of cycling on the body is dramatically smaller than that of other sports too so you can ease yourself into it and it is more accessible to older people and those with minor disabilities. If you compare it to jogging, for example, there is a much lower impact on the knees and joints; where high impact can cause problems later in life and injuries in the short term.
In addition to the fitness benefits connected to cycling there are ways that it can be good for your overall mood. The hormones released when cycling are euphoria-inducing and therefore put you in a good mood; more endorphins are released into your body and as we all know getting out and about in fresh air will always been good for you long-term. If more people cycled the pollution levels in our towns and cities would be dramatically reduced too which would benefit the wider community’s health.
Cost and convenience
Our health and fitness are obviously very important too us but there are other benefits to cycling too; the everyday costs are far lower than many other travel options. Once you have bought your bike you will have to maintain it but it is unlikely to cost as much as your travel ticket to work or your petrol for the month. Also if you live in a built up area, especially within a city, there are a lot of factors to consider when going out. You may just be going to the shop, to university or work, and yet driving there could take quite a while if its rush hour or you live near a very busy road. Cycling will get you to your destination faster and you will not have to worry about find a parking spot once you’re there.
Local governments are trying to promote cycling to their residents so maybe it is time to listen. Bristol City Council has recently launched their ‘Bristol Cycling Manifesto’ which outlines exactly what targets they hope to achieve within the next 12 years. The council plans to invest in a better cycling infrastructure for the city, which will have the means to take up to four times as many bikes as there are currently on the roads. Obviously the council in Bristol can see the benefits of biking and hopefully more will follow suit.
With the major benefits to your health, fitness and pocket visible biking is obviously the best way to travel!
by Kath Webb
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