London makes for a pretty thrilling location for cycling. There’s much to see, and the cycle networks are getting increasingly better as every year passes. It’s Cycle to Work Day on 5 August, so we thought it was an excellent time to highlight the health and well-being benefits.
Firstly, cycling is a low impact aerobic activity, and it can be incredibly beneficial for health and fitness. It’s a safe choice for older adults and people with weak or damaged joints. The low impact nature of the exercise can accommodate a variety of injuries and disabilities while still allowing a person to be active.
In addition, cycling is a practical exercise that you incorporate into your daily life as your chosen mode of transport. Not only can it have a tangible benefit on health, it can have a significant environmental impact too. In fact, other than walking, cycling is the most sustainable mode of urban transportation.
Cycling can be beneficial for fitness, as people can change the intensity to suit their needs. Londoners who cycle often or incorporate cycling into their physical activities are typically fitter than people who do other physical activities.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that we take 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity, such as cycling, every week. Research indicates that cycling can provide numerous health benefits, including the following:
1. Cardiovascular health
Cycling can help improve heart health, and research suggests that people who cycle to work experience notable health benefits, including improved cardiovascular functioning. In addition to a 46% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, commuters who cycle to work also have a 52% lower risk of dying from the condition. The research also indicates that cycling to work may reduce the risk of developing cancer.
2. Weight management
Cycling is a useful exercise to help reduce body fat and body mass. If you need to lose some lockdown weight, having a good diet and getting adequate exercise are both vital. Cycling can help to manage weight because it increases the metabolic rate, builds muscle, and burns body fat. You can burn up to 300 calories an hour with moderate cycling.
3. Can lower blood pressure
High blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in some people. Some experts suggest that physical activity like cycling can potentially prevent these conditions. Cycling may also help reduce blood pressure over a period of time.
4. Lung health
With lung health increasingly being in the spotlight in recent months, cycling can also help improve cardiorespiratory health. An older study, from 2011, notes that cycling for about 170–250 minutes per week can significantly improve lung health.
5. General well-being
Cycling has also been linked to improved mental health, as well as indicating improvements to some cognitive functions. Plus, as we all know, regular exercise may help to reduce anxiety and low mood.
Cycling in London: Risks and Safety
Many people avoid cycling in London due to safety concerns. However, there are ways to make cycling safer and less stressful, including:
-Don’t ride through red traffic lights (You may be fined £50)
-Stay central on narrow roads. Try to ride away from the gutter. If the road is too narrow for vehicles to pass you safely, it might be safer to ride towards the middle of the lane to prevent dangerous overtaking by other vehicles
-Stay away from parked cars. Ideally, keep a door’s width away in case the door opens suddenly.
-Stay back from lorries and other large vehicles that might not be able to see you clearly.
-Stay focused on what’s going on around you so you can see what other road users might do
-Always take your mobile phone, a puncture repair kit and pump, and a small first aid kit
-Try to make eye contact with drivers, so you’re sure that they have seen you
-Don’t cycle on the pavement or up a one-way street (unless clearly marked for cyclists)
-Check your route before departing
-Stay safe by wearing bright clothes during the day and reflective clothing/accessories at night
-Use lights after dark – white at the front and red at the rear. Again, you may be fined £50 if you don’t have them
-Your bike needs to be fitted with a red rear reflector, and also amber pedal reflectors if it’s manufactured after 1985
-Use appropriate hand signals to indicate that you’re turning
-Don’t use a mobile phone or earphones which can distract your focus
-Consider wearing a cycling helmet
-Follow the Highway Code
-Cycle training. Take the Transport for London Cycle Skills course and check cycle training in London boroughs