Pedalling out of lockdown

Official figures show the number of people turning to cycling to keep fit has doubled during the pandemic. Moving forward, let’s keep those wheels turning!

Cycling has doubled during the Covid-19 crisis as thousands of us discovered – or rediscovered ¬– the benefits of pedal power for our health and wellbeing. We know from personal experience how the already-popular leisure pursuit really took off during the lockdown. We ordered a new bike ourselves to replace a worn-out boneshaker which had seen better days. What would usually be delivered within a few days, took weeks to arrive!

If there are any positives from the pandemic, we’ve probably all reassessed who were are and what we do with our lives and spare time a bit more – and set ourselves a goal of continuing with a healthier lifestyle. Cycling UK, the national organisation which organised the recent Bike Week celebrations, has worked out for example that two-thirds of car journeys in a city like London, or Birmingham for that matter, could be replaced by a 20-minute bike ride. That’s in line with the World Health Organisation and UK government advice to cycle or walk wherever possible for short journeys.

LIFESTYLE CHOICE

It takes anything between two and four hours a week in the saddle to see an improvement to your health. Major muscle groups get a great workout, yet cycling is a low impact exercise which causes less strain and injuries than most other forms of exercise. It’s also great for gaining extra strength and stamina and aerobic fitness. And if, as Cycling UK suggests, you can cycle to work, exercise becomes an easy and convenient part of your everyday lifestyle. The government and health bodies are also promoting cycling as a safe alternative to public transport and private vehicle use during the pandemic.

To recognise the importance of cycling as a safe mode of transport for key workers, Cycling UK has been offering a three-month free membership to health and social care workers. Pete Fitzboydon, interim chief executive of Cycling UK, said: “The reduction in vehicle traffic and increase in cycling during lockdown has allowed a glimpse of a different, more active future, and it would be a great shame to turn our backs on this and return to business as usual.

SPREAD THE MESSAGE

“Bike Week provided a chance to share the fun and freedom that cycling offers, but this year the real focus is on the health benefits – not only for the individual but for society as a whole. We are encouraging everybody to get out on their bikes at least once a week, spreading the message that even a short ride can make a big difference.”

Cycling UK says the average journey to school could also be made with a 20-minute bike ride. And while an average traffic lane can carry 2,000 cars per hour, it could carry 14,000 bicycles instead. At a time when people are beginning to return to workplaces and schools, choosing cycling will have an enormous impact on congestion and the associated economic and societal costs.

Cycling Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “Covid-19 has made us rethink how we work, shop, and travel – and we have seen so many people over the past couple of months discovering or re-discovering a love of cycling as they look for new ways to get around, while improving the quality of air that we breathe and helping people to get fit and stay healthy.”

 

BENEFITS OF BIKING 

Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity, which means that your heart, blood vessels and lungs all get a workout. You will breathe deeper, perspire and experience increased body temperature, which will improve your overall fitness level.

The health benefits of regular cycling include:

• Increased cardiovascular fitness

• Increased muscle strength and flexibility

• Improved joint mobility

• Decreased stress levels

• Improved posture and co-ordination

• Strengthened bones

• Decreased body fat levels

• Prevention or management of disease

• Reduced anxiety and depression