Ten reasons why it’s great to cycle

This article was published in 2004, in Newsletter 53.

Thanks to author Jane Hubey and Cambridge Agenda ‘The magazine that knows what makes Cambridge tick’ (it’s obviously bicycles) for permission to reproduce this article.

We’re all struggling to get enough exercise into our lives – the easiest way is just to cycle to work or to the shops every day. Get a good rain cape and lights and you’ll be comfortable all year round.

1. Shapely legs at last

You’ll be using the glutei and the leg flexors and extensors, the large muscles in the buttocks and thighs. Cycling regularly will tone those muscles into a lean, trim shape and make your trousers fit more comfortably.

2. No-one can guess your age

If you bike daily you’ll enjoy a fitness level equivalent to being ten years younger – as reflected in your weight, your shape, your posture, and skin quality. Cycling three hours a week makes you 40% more likely to live to a good old age than your couch potato friends.

3. No dowager’s hump for you!

Women who cycle or walk more than half an hour a day have a lower incidence of vertebral curvature than sedentary women, as shown by the European Vertebral Osteoporosis study. When we spend so much time slumped in front of our computers at work, we need to mobilise our backs on the way there and back.

4. Your weight loss will actually happen

Exercise combined with diet works much better in achieving and maintaining weight loss than diet alone: a study from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that people who exercised felt less hungry and showed greater self-restraint. Regular cyclists are half as likely to be seriously overweight than people who won’t get out of their cars.

5. Lubricate your joints

Cycling helps maintain and increase joint movement and improves overall flexibility. It’s low impact, and sensitive joints won’t be jarred -you can carry on biking forever. We need to establish exercise patterns in our youth that we can maintain for the rest of our lives, not just as long as we can look good in Lycra!

6. Healthier boobs and bums too

The International Agency for Cancer Research estimates that 25% of cancer cases world wide are due to overweight and a sedentary lifestyle. If you cycle for 3 to 4 hours a week your risk of breast cancer will be 30-40% lower. You’re also much less likely to get colorectal cancer, another common Western killer.

7. There’s no such thing as the bicycling blues

A Norwegian study estimates that half the population will suffer some mental health disorder during their life time. Daily exercise like cycling reduces the incidence of depression and anxiety, improves self-esteem and body image, and can be part of a treatment programme for people suffering from depressive or stress related disorders. Furthermore, you get your dose of rays every day, which help banish Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you can cycle through a park or along a river, even better: trees and birds cheer everyone up.

8. Breathe cleaner air

In heavy traffic the air quality can be poorer inside a car than out. On a bike you are higher up and not in the wake of the fumes, so you breathe fresher air. You’ll be doing your bit to reduce air and noise pollution, too. If people cycled more in urban areas there would be a 4% reduction in CO2 emissions, and as about 65% of Europeans are exposed to noise exceeding 55 decibels over 24 hours, we need to try and give our ears a rest.

9. Fund your summer holiday

It’s not expensive. You can get a second hand bike at a police auction for £1. A helmet is another £20, and that’s all you need. Owning a car costs at least £2,200 a year (and that’s a small one). On the other hand, if you want to impress, you can go for a top of the range mountain bike for about £1000. The most expensive exercise is a gym membership you don’t use – one person estimated that each of her gym visits cost £100, because she only went four times a year.

10. It’s an affair of the heart…

You’ll also be half as likely to suffer from heart disease and adult onset diabetes, a third as likely to have hypertension, and a quarter as likely to have a stroke – all this for 30 minutes cycling a day. Remember to cycle on a lower gear (your feet go round faster!) – this means your muscles are pumping more blood around your body which increases your heart rate and makes you fitter.