Ex rugby internationalist turned broadcaster John Beattie hosted an interesting TV programme on 2 January 2017 called The Medal Myth.
The show questioned the received wisdom that success at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games had been an incentive for more people in Britain to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
It demonstrated that while international sports success can create a temporary feel-good mood in the country, it has had little impact on the general health of our increasingly overweight population. Telling statistics made the case that investing in organized sport mostly benefitted people who would get into sport anyway.
The programme’s verdict was that the best way to improve the health and fitness of a significant number is to encourage and invest in active travel to make it easier and safer for more people to walk and to cycle.
For most of us at the Bicycle Co-op, getting around on our bicycles comes as naturally as taking breath. When riding a bike becomes second nature it’s easy to take the benefits of cycling for granted.
This inspired us to have a quick brainstorm to list a dozen reasons why cycling is almost always very good for you.
- Passive exercise – when cycling is part of your everyday life for general getting around, you don’t have to make a conscious effort and make time to enjoy the benefits of regular exercise.
- Brave heart – Your heart is a muscle. You have to exercise to keep it strong. Cycling strengthens the cardiovascular system.
- This helps explain why, everything else being equal, an adult who cycles regularly enjoys the same level of ﬁtness as a non-cyclist who is 10 years younger.
- Fresh air – whenever you jump on the saddle rather than into the car, you’ll be part of the solution to reducing pollution – and not part of the cause.
- Young at heart – chances are you’ll look younger, you’ll be less likely to fall ill and you’ll live longer than your non-cycling contemporaries.
- Stay trim – cycling can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight as shown by Edinburgh University Professor Chris Oliver who gives talks on how cycling helped him drop his weight from 27 to 15 stone.
- Feed your head. ‘E=mc2: I thought of that while riding my bike.’ Albert Einstein.
- Sleep well – regular cycling exposes you to daylight and helps regulate your circadian rhythm (AKA biological clock) so it helps prevent insomnia.
- Arrive on time – virtually immune to delays, congestion and parking hassles, a bike will almost always get you to your destination within a predictable time frame. Further proof that cycling helps reduce stress.
- But isn’t cycling dangerous? Sure it can be – like any human activity (or inactivity). Yet statistically speaking, you’re more likely to get injured playing tennis or gardening than you are riding a bike.
- Natural high – exercising flushes the brain with endorphins – nature’s happy hormones.
- The gift that keeps on giving – the fact that a bike is a great way to get out into the world makes cycling a relatively safe addiction, which you’re less likely to tire of than more prosaic forms of exercise, such as…