How do you feel when you get to the office after being stuck in morning traffic or on the train? Like most of us who drive to work, probably slightly hassled and unnerved. Maybe you’ve caught yourself looking enviously at the cyclists passing by the long queue of cars or gliding across a railroad bridge, thinking about joining them? Why not?
The Facts about Cycling
Some countries, like the Netherlands have a long-standing cycling tradition. In those who don’t, there’s been some debate whether the benefits of cycling outweigh its risks, so let’s have a look at both…
Cycling is good for your body and your mind!
Firstly, cycling is the most efficient form of muscle powered locomotion on the planet.1 Why? Because the bike carries most of our weight, which means much less strain for the entire body. It takes a third of the energy to cycle a given distance than it would take to walk it.
Secondly, the physical and mental benefits of cycling include (but are not limited to) increased cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and flexibility, improved posture, joint mobility and coordination as well as reduced stress, anxiety and depression.2 Cycling has also been linked to a decreased likelihood of developing major conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and arthritis. So, cycling can be a great counteraction against anything that is linked to a sedentary lifestyle.
Generally speaking, cycling, as a low-impact exercise can be enjoyed by people of all ages, young or old. Similarly, it doesn’t matter if you casually cycle to work every morning or if you’re training for a triathlon – cycling is beneficial, no matter how intensely you pursue it.
Thirdly, cycling is not just good for us, but also for everyone else! By leaving the car in the garage, we decrease air and noise pollution, as well as road congestion, thereby improving the quality of life for all of us.
Addressing the barriers to cycling…
Yet however much evidence or experience there is to suggest the range of benefits that cycling can bring, there’s always some contention about supposed risks – and often presented in rather black and white terms. For example, there can be an unhealthy notion that cycling is simply “dangerous.”3 In fact, accidents involving cyclists are proportionately rare in every country.
Given the health benefits of cycling, there’s an equally strong argument that it’s more harmful to your health not to cycle.4 Common sense when cycling such as reflective clothing, sticking to cycle lanes and respecting the rules of the road and being aware of traffic will help ensure a safe experience. A full and regular check of the bike’s set-up and condition also goes a long way towards peace of mind.
The Inspired Cyclist
If you’re looking to cycle more how can you become inspired?
First, look at what you’ve got to work with: Is the bike you’ve kept in the shed for the last 10 years up to standard? And if not, what does it need – just a wipe-down, bike check and a little adjustment, or some time in a bike shop with a proper assessment by a bicycle expert? If you have a sturdy, reliable bike you’ve loved for years, you should invest some time, effort and possibly money to upgrade it. If you think your bike’s best days are behind it – find your nearest bike retailer and look at their selection. Whatever is necessary to get out and pedaling – do it.
How about cycling to work?5 Many people who used their car to get to work and switched to cycling reported an entirely new perspective on their neighborhoods, discovering lovely streets, shops, and sights. You’ll seldom find bike congestion on the road (except maybe in some major cities) making your trip to work much more pleasant. If you’re worried about getting there slightly sweaty, keep in mind that cycling doesn’t need to be strenuous to be beneficial, just plan a little more time and go at a comfortable speed.
Even if you don’t own a bike, if you live in a major city, there’s a good chance to find an easy-to-rent bike service, which has bikes positioned all across town. If you’re on a city break it’s a great alternative to (often costly) public transportation. Why not check out if your future vacation destination offers this service – and pack some comfortable clothes?
Lately, more and more people invite their colleagues, friends and family to support their extraordinary cycling challenges such as an Argentina – Chile race, donating to charity and raising awareness. It’s a great opportunity to spend quality time on your bike and contribute to a good cause.
And don’t forget – it’s an ideal family activity. Don’t we all remember the moment when we, or our children were able to keep our balance on a bike for the first time – what an accomplishment! So, go out and get your loved ones on a bike – and start creating those memories.