As the UK gears up for this year’s Tour of Britain, now is a great time to take a look at the benefits of cycling and how you can take inspiration from this prestigious event.
The wonderful thing about cycling is that it’s something the whole family can do to keep fit and active together. Whether it’s riding to school or work, or going for a Sunday afternoon cycle along the canal, it’s a great way to fill your lungs with fresh air, get your heart pumping and work your muscles.
And if your kids are a bit too little to ride on their own, they can sit on the back or in a trailer and still benefit from the fresh air and stimulation.
So, with the world’s top cyclists coming to the UK in September, let’s take a closer look at why and how cycling can become part of your family’s fitness regime.
Get into a healthy cycle
There are lots of health benefits to cycling. The Government recommends that adults and older adults should do at least two and a half hours of moderate activity a week. This can easily be achieved on a bike.
Getting out on the bike regularly can also help keep your weight under control and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer.
Research also shows that physical activity such as cycling can boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression and mental health problems. And even better, some of the effects are almost immediate. So, jumping on a bike and heading out for a 30-minute cycle will do wonders for your mental health and wellbeing.
Becoming a regular pedaller
It’s too cold and too wet. With our weather, these are both understandable objections to getting the bikes out of the shed and heading out for a ride. But (fingers crossed!) not at this time of year. So why not make the most of the nicer weather to start building a routine, you’ll be less inclined to break further down the line.
Once you start making cycling a regular part of your week, you will find it’s pretty easy to meet your exercise goals.
By cycling to and from work or school, you will soon slip into a routine which means a little rain or a later finish won’t put you off getting on your bike. And the more you do it, the more natural it will become. Even just swapping two journeys a week will make a difference to your family’s health, not to mention the benefit for the environment too. Perhaps you can make a habit of always cycling to the shop, or avoid using the car on a weekend.
The right bike for you
You don’t need an expensive bike to make short daily journeys or for leisure rides along the canal. However, it’s worth considering getting your bike serviced if it’s been at the back of a garage gathering dust.
If you don’t have bikes, there are plenty of freecycle and recycle websites where you are likely to pick some up cheaply or even for free. There are also many bikes available for people with disabilities, so check out Wheels for All and Cycling UK if you or your family can’t use a traditional two wheeled bike.
It’s also worth knowing that many workplaces offer a cycle to work scheme that allows you to pay off the cost of your bikes through your pay packet at a discounted rate.
Roads, codes and safety clothes
If you’ve not cycled in a while, or you don’t feel safe on the roads, then there are plenty of parks, canals and towpaths which will give you the security you need to build up confidence. Practise riding in the park and remind yourself of the Highway Code so that you feel in full control when you take to the road.
If you are still unsure, there are plenty of training schemes that can help. For all ages – from kids to grandparents – they are usually held in easily accessible places like parks and schools. Check out cycle training or Bikeability for information.
Always wear a helmet and make sure you are wearing suitable clothing. You don’t have to wear lycra and yellow jerseys, but choosing highly visible clothing such as reflective and bright colours will ensure motorists can spot you easily.
If you really can’t bear the thought of hitting the road, or the weather takes a particularly harsh turn, then you can always choose to get your miles in on an exercise bike.
Your local gym will have plenty of static bikes set up and ready to go at your leisure. If you want something that pushes you a bit more, why not try a spin class? Spin is a form of high intensity interval training (HIIT) that uses a static bike with a weighted wheel and is suitable for all fitness levels.
Go, go, go!
There is a bike out there for everyone – from a toddler’s first balance bike, to tandems made for two and cycles that stand still. So why not gear up for the country’s biggest cycling event and get moving!