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How regular cycling can help improve fitness and reduce stress

PUBLISHED: 10:34 24 November 2014 | UPDATED: 10:34 24 November 2014

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archant

Whatever your age, regular cycling can help you lose weight, improve your fitness and reduce stress as Susan Mulligan reveals

Unlike high impact sports like running, cycling is a ‘low-impact’ exercise which helps you to get in shape without putting unwanted pressure on the joints. This makes it an excellent choice for those recovering from leg or hip injuries.

Cycling is the third most popular recreational activity in the UK. An estimated 3.1 million people ride a bicycle each month. As a form of exercise it appeals to a broad age range and it works wonders for:

• Heart: As well as improving cardiovascular fitness, cycling can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

• Muscles: Riding a bike is ideal for toning and building muscles, particularly in the lower half of the body – calves, thighs and bottom.

• Waistline: Cycling faster than a leisurely pace burns calories and can help to keep weight gain down. It also has the added benefit of speeding up your metabolism.

• Coordination: Moving both feet around in circles while using your hands and your body’s own weight to steer is great practice for your coordination skills.

• Balance: Balance is at the heart of riding, and is one way of building better balance. Having good balance helps prevent falls in later life.

• Mental health: Taking the time out to enjoy your environment while riding a bike has been linked to improved mental health.

• Lifespan: While it might not make you immortal, regular cycling has been associated with an increase in ‘life-years’.

By cycling to work or to the shops every few days you will soon build up your fitness, then try to do some longer rides at the weekend. There are lots of cycle routes to explore around the county such as the North Dorset Trailway or Moors Valley Park (discover more at dorsetforyou.com). Remember to wear a cycling helmet and,
if you are going to be riding at dusk or in the dark, you must have a white front and red back light, rear reflector and reflectors on the pedals so you can be seen.

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Susan Mulligan is an integrated clinical services manager at Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital. To find out more visit nuffieldhealth.com/hospitals/bournemouth

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Getting Back to Cycling

If you’d like to cycle but feel a bit rusty, why not book a refresher cycle training session? Dorset County Council has teamed up with local cycling trainers who can provide cycle training to help you feel more confident and refresh your skills. There are a limited number of vouchers on offer giving you one-to-one bespoke tuition with 75 per cent off the usual rate. Each voucher entitles you to a two-hour session, individually tailored to you with a qualified instructor. To qualify for a voucher you must live in Dorset and be aged 18+. To request a voucher, visit dorsetforyou.com/adult-cycle where you will also find a list of cycle trainers local to you.

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