In the UK, Bike Week (11th- 19th June) is upon us and we recognise the promotion needed on such an important and enjoyable activity.
Since man first had the idea of making the wheel then further developing that idea of placing two wheels together to create a bicycle as a mode of transport, cycling has indeed been part of culture. From parents teaching their toddler to ride their first tricycle, to its everyday use for people travelling to work, to its use in gyms for fitness, its core function has still been the manual action of pushing pedals to spin a wheel that creates and expends energy. If we focus on energy expenditure, this is what has been necessary for increased fitness, stamina and even strength.
But really why should it be involved in health and well-being?
The answer is simple, cardio-vascular optimisation. However to those that need further explanation, cardio refers to our central body system concerning the main organ, our heart. Vascular refers to the intricate network of vessels, arteries and veins widespread in our bodies. Like pipework in central heating, these pipes should be optimised as much as possible in any individual. This is where doing regular exercise, helps to pump blood around the body more efficiently and also helps to keep our vessels well maintained. This reduces the chances of blockage or reduced blood supply to important areas. In other words, less chance of a heart attack, stroke or developing peripheral vascular disease which ultimately may cause the loss of a limb.
Primarily use of the lower limb muscles in cycling helps to increase muscle strength and flexibility, improve joint mobility and strengthen bones. However generally as an exercise this goes further in helping toning, coordination and even balance. But let’s not forget, it is actually fun, easy to arrange and actually can help show cities and countries in an entirely different setting. Compared to running, many argue it’s more kinder to your hips, knees and ankle joints as much less ground impact is directed to those areas. Therefore reducing the chance of injury and possibly reducing the chance of developing osteoarthritis.
We appreciate the other primary benefits of cycling including decreased fat levels, helping to maintain good control of your body sugars, weight management and help with anxiety, stress and depression. These are important areas to track your progress and achieve specific goals.
Cycling in almost all contexts is a winner. Added with the benefits of a good nutritional program and a structured and individual work out plan, those who cycle can achieve improved fitness. It can even help serious cyclists to achieve better performance and results by constructing and focusing on maximising particular muscle groups involved.
Therefore just like the first man who thought of the wheel, please during bike week and thereafter spare a thought for cycling but be aware we will be riding side by side with you whatever you choose your goals to be.
Dr A Egboh, WAFFL Doctor
MBBS, BSc, AICSM, MRCGP