Cycling for a Fit Life
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Exercise is the fastest and most effective way to make the most of your life and safeguard your health.
There are fitness activities to suit everyone, regardless of age, physique and interests, but cycling is one of those sports enjoyed by millions of people around the world. It’s also one of the fastest growing sports in many countries, and particularly in Africa.
It’s a social or solitary pastime that gets you out and about in the fresh air. Cycling is an enjoyable low-impact aerobic activity that makes working towards your fit life goals easy and adaptable.
You can look forward to the following health benefits when you take up cycling:
- Aerobic benefits such as increased respiration without placing load-bearing strain on the muscles and joints
- Improved muscle flexibility and strength
- Increased cardiovascular fitness
- Better joint mobility
- Superior coordination and posture
- Reduced stress levels and diminished anxiety and depression
- Stronger bones
- Lower body fat levels
By putting in just two to four hours of work a week, you’ll soon start to see all these benefits and more.
Apart from the ongoing benefits of cycling as part of a fit life, this activity can also be used to combat or prevent specific diseases and ailments.
The main ones are:
Obesity is the scourge of the western world where we quite simply spend too much time sitting or doing nothing. Our eating habits leave much to be desired, with convenient foods loaded with artery clogging, empty carbohydrates featuring far too heavily on the menu.
If you want to use exercise to lose fat and tone your body, you have to embark on a healthy diet at the same time. Unless you use up more kilojoules than you pump into your body every day, you’re fighting a losing battle.
The good news is that cycling is one of the best ways to burn kilojoules fast, with each 1-hour session depleting about 1,200 kilojoules at a time.
So, if you want to slim down, lift yourself off the couch and get on your bicycle. It’s best to start slowly at first and work towards clearly defined goals over time. Sore, stiff muscles will only discourage you from your next session.
A consistent cycling routine reduces your chances of developing, high blood pressure and having a stroke or heart attack.
When you pump those pedals, your heart and lungs have to work harder. Over time this regular exertion helps these organs to become stronger and more resilient to disease.
Yes, cancer can be foiled by exercise. Studies have shown that colon and breast cancer are less common in people who stay fit by cycling regularly.
The British Medical Journal published evidence that those who bike to work instead of commuting, had a whopping 45% lower risk of contracting cancer. This outcome was better than the results achieved by walking.
The same study also showed that cancer-sufferers who cycled regularly had a lower mortality rate and a better chance of achieving remission. As a low impact form of exercise, cycling puts less strain on the joints than running.
It’s no secret that exercise is great for reducing the risk of contracting diabetes and even alleviating this condition.
Activities like moderate cycling, weight training and brisk walking are thought to be the best ways to lower blood sugar levels and keep diabetes at bay. Test results show that people who cycled for more than 30 minutes a day reduced their risk of contracting diabetes by 40%.
Bone injuries and Arthritis
There’s no doubt that cycling improves balance, coordination and muscle strength. In this way, and with better core stability, it also helps to prevent falls and the resulting fractures.
The low-impact nature of cycling means less strain on the joints and thus an ideal way to stay fit if you suffer from osteoarthritis.
You can say goodbye to stress, anxiety and depression when you take to the road or mountains on a bike regularly. Healthy outdoor exercise is the best way to beat the blues naturally and effectively.
Besides, what’s not to enjoy about cycling. The simple act of taking part in a pleasurable, healthy activity works wonders for your state of mind.
Thanks to the innovations of recumbent cycles, even people who have lost the use of their legs can take part in cycling.
These kinds of tricycles allow those with spinal injuries, stroke sufferers and amputees to get the cardiovascular and strength benefits of outdoor exercise by using their hands to keep going instead of their legs.
Types of Cycling
Not everybody aspires to be the next Lance Armstrong, or even to complete a major road-cycling event like the Tour de France or the Cape Town Cycle Tour, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in the thrill of smaller local competitions or even cycling just for enjoyment.
There are 6 main types of cycling events or disciplines. These are:
One of the most popular types of biking, this involves tackling mountainside obstacles and rough routes on a bike built specifically for the purpose. Mountain bikes have heavier frames and supple suspension to tackle the task. Mountain bike trails come in varying degrees of difficulty according to your skill and interests. You can take part in competitions or try out the tracks at numerous venues all over the world.
The original type of biking where riders have a choice of gears, lightweight bikes and slender tyres for zipping along the tarmac. This is the stuff the big-name races are made of, but you can ride a ride bike anywhere that a car can go. It’s a popular way to commute to work and you don’t need all the fancy racing extras to enjoy this type of cycling.
This zany sport falls somewhere in between mountain biking and road biking. Participants attempt to take on the vagaries of a mountain bike course on board a road bike fitted with mountain bike tyres. It’s a thrill-and-spill-a-minute kind of activity.
BMX was at the height of its popularity during the ’80s but enthusiasts have continued the trend so that it’s still a thriving sport today. You’ll still find BMX tracks in many areas and it can be a hoot tackling these motocross obstacles on board a bike that’s up to the job.
This kind of cycle race takes road racing to the next level and usually occurs in a velodrome. The bikes are built to whizz around at incredible speeds in sprint and long-distance races, usually in a continuous circle and at hair-raising angles.
Going about on a bicycle made for two is a great way to explore your surroundings with a significant other that you can trust to share the pedalling-load.
You don’t necessarily ‘need’ any specialized gear for casual cycling, although it’s nice to buy some of the kit over time and as finances allow. An approved helmet is an important safety feature and most races and events won’t allow you to start without one, but you don’t need specialized outfits to go for a spin on your bicycle.
Slim-fit cycling shorts and shirts with a special chamois (for padding) will make for a comfortable ride, but a tracksuit is just fine for casual rides.
Naturally, professional cyclists prefer outfits with supreme aerodynamic and moisture-wicking qualities to help them perform at their best.
If you’re going to be tackling extreme cycling sports like mountain biking, cyclocross or BMX, long- cycling pants and shirts, as well as knee and elbow guards, are recommended.
Are you Ready to put your pedals to the mettle?
Before splurging on expensive gear and a bike, you can start working on your fitness training on a stationary bike at the gym or hire a bike for a day’s outing to see if you enjoy the sport.
You don’t need the most expensive, latest-edition bike to reap the benefits of cycling as part of a fit life and you can upgrade the accessories as your skills develop. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to this type of exercise.
Still looking for exercise options? Keep reading our Fit Life Guide, we’re full of suggestions to help you lead a healthier existence.