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Cycling and health

Getting on your bike regularly is not only an alternative way of travelling, it protects you against a wide range of ill health, and also makes you feel better.

Cycling is good for your heart and health

Everyday cycling, where the exercise leaves you breathing heavily but not being out of breath, is an effective and enjoyable form of aerobic exercise. This is the type of exercise that is most effective at promoting good health. Cycling reduces the risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and the most common form of diabetes.

Cycling can help with weight management

Cycling can help as part of a programme to lose weight because it burns the energy supplied by a chocolate bar or a couple of alcoholic drinks in an hour (about 300 calories). A 15-minute ride to and from work five times a week burns the equivalent of 11 pounds of fat a year. That kind of pattern also meets the Government's target on exercise: that we should take part in mild to moderate physical activity that leaves us out of breath for at least 30 minutes five times a week.

Cycling can improve your mood

Cycling can have positive effects on how you feel. Moderate exercise has been found to reduce levels of depression and stress, improve mood and raise self-esteem.

How cycling improves fitness

A study carried out for the Department of Transport found that 'even a small amount of cycling can lead to significant gains in fitness'. The study found that aerobic fitness was boosted by 11% after just six weeks of cycling 'short distances' four times a week. If cycling the equivalent of four miles to and from work in total a day the aerobic benefit increased to 17%.

According to the same Department of Transport study people who do not exercise who start cycling move from the third of the population who are the least fit, to the fittest half of the population in just a few months.

Cycling, the researchers concluded, is 'one of the few physical activities which can be undertaken by the majority of the population as part of a daily routine'.

Some facts about fitness and health

The health drive

  • Six out of ten men and seven out of ten women are not physically active enough to benefit their health.
  • Recommended minimum activity for adults is 30 minutes of moderate activity five times a week.
  • One in three adults are believed to own a bike.

The fitness ride

  • Regular cycling improves strength, stamina and posture.
  • Cycling increases calorie consumption and raises the metabolic rate, which can help to lose weight.

General wellbeing

  • People who cycle regularly enjoy the same level of fitness as non-cyclists who are ten years younger.
  • Regular cyclists also suffer less stress and enjoy a greater sense of well-being.

Take heart

  • Regular cycling halves the chances of suffering from heart disease, the biggest cause of death in Britain.
  • Cycling helps to lower both blood pressure and the resting heart rate.

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