Flashback Friday: Cycling and Health

It almost seems to be a given these days that most people recognise the health benefits of physical activity like cycling. But that hasn’t always been the case (especially when people overinflated the “danger” of cycling vs the danger of not doing so). So this article, first posted in July 2013, helped to remind us that cycling is pretty good for us…

This is a wee collection of articles that look at the health effects of getting on your bike!

From looking at the effects of exercise on general health to understanding how having fewer people in motor vehicles has a downward effect on accident rates and the effects of air pollution from motor vehicles, this article looks at how using transport other than private motor vehicles can affect health postively in 5 different ways.  150 minutes of physical activity per week – about 20 minutes per day – can improve health and reduce the risk of disease.

This article includes more than simply health benefits but many of the 30 reasons to take up cycling listed in this article are health related.   From preventing cancer and heart attacks to succumbing less to colds and flu and getting better faster if you do, improving your sex life and making your brain work better these are 30 GREAT reasons to get out there and cycle regularly.  And on top of that you save yourself some money as well.

Many news articles focus on the dangers of cycling.  Just now I’ve talked to a reporter wanting to know about cycle deaths and had him asking me whether I feel safe on my bike.  I do most of the time.  I feel especially safe biking during rush hour when the cars are banked up and not moving!   Why this focus on cycle deaths?  It is to do with the visibility and perhaps the sensationalism of them.  We seldom if ever see reports on the effects of not exercising.  There is a cost to spending an hour driving a car and being sedentary compared with spending an hour a day riding a bike.  The cost is silent, it doesn’t get noticed.  This article talks about  shifting the balance from that invisible danger of sitting still,  towards the positive health benefits of cycling.  Many agree that it is far less risky to bike for an hour than not to exercise at all.

Not only does exercise keep us well – it can also help us concentrate better when we are trying to work.  Here’s an article about the advantage that biking or walking to school confers on children’s concentration,  Given what the country spends on education, wouldn’t it be best if we made efforts to ensure that our kids get the best they can from the time they and we invest in this process?

And just in case you are wondering, here’s an article  that uses the World Health Organisations HEAT tool to analyse the health benefits of cycling and walking in economic terms for Auckland (you need to scroll down the page to find the Auckland work).  And lastly …A little something looking at cycling and mental health   According to this article cycling increases a lot of the chemistry in your brain that make you feel peaceful and calm. Doctors report symptoms of depression disappearing from patients who took up cycling and many cyclists report that their regular rides help to clear their head and transition them between work and home.   And as if this is not enough here’s something to say that not only is it good to cycle – it’s even better to do it outdoors rather than on a bike inside.

So cycling is great for your health and wellbeing but perhaps its worth not getting too hung up on all this.  Just get out there an enjoy yourselves passing all those stuck in cars on roads blocked by road works!

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