7 Reasons to Get Your Bum in The Saddle
As a hobby, cycling is one of the most cost-effective, healthy and social you could possibly choose. Not only that, but it can also be worked into your day-to-day life, as an alternative mode of transport for the daily commute for example, or as an activity you can share with your friends and family. There are no really convincing reasons not to get involved in cycling, especially with modern advances in technology meaning it's now just as, if not more safe than driving. But there are plenty of reasons to convince even the most stubborn of us to saddle up.
Commuting by bike has become much more common in some of the UK's biggest cities over the past few years. In London especially, the advent of the 'Boris Bike', has seen thousands of commuters ditching their cars for the cleaner, more convenient option. It's not just an environmental conscience that has led many to saddle up though, in many cities you'll actually get to work (and home again) faster by bike. Taking the Welsh city of Cardiff as an example, research by Citroen has shown that in the city centre you will average around 7mph whilst driving, but by cycling you'll average between 12 and 15mph.
We're not condoning falling asleep at the handlebars of course, but it's been proven by the Stanford University School of Medicine that a 20 – 30 minute ride every other day could help increase not only the duration, but the quality of your sleep. The science behind it is that exercising outdoors exposes you to sunlight, which helps keep your body clock in sync, and also gets rid of the stress hormone 'cortisol', which can prevent deep, REM sleep.
Whilst jogging is a surefire way to shift a few pounds, when you're on the saddle the majority of your weight is being taken by the saddle, which means that you'll be able to go for longer without feeling like your bones are being battered around your insides. This is especially true for those of us who are perhaps a little on the larger side. The body's metabolic rate is also raised, not only during a ride, but for several hours afterwards, so even if you're only cycling for 30 minutes, you could still be burning calories for hours after you've finished!
It's no great secret that driving is more expensive now than it ever has been. Car insurance, petrol prices and potential repairs all add up, but by cycling to work instead of driving, you'll completely circumvent these costs and could end up saving yourself potentially hundreds of pounds a year.
Research undertaken at Illinois University have shown that the average 5% increase in cardio fitness that results from regular cycling can lead to an improvement of up to 15% in mental tests. Cycling helps in the building of fresh brain cells in your hippocampus, which begins to deteriorate around the age of 30 in most of us, and is responsible for our long and short term memory. It also helps to boost oxygen and blood flow to your brain, which could help ward off Alzheimer's and dementia, especially noteworthy if there are traces of either disease in your family. Aerobic exercise (such as cycling) has also been found to increase creative thinking, a device used by such great modern thinkers as Sir Alan Sugar and Jeremy Paxman.
Cycling enthusiasts are generally friendly, accommodating individuals and there are hundreds of cycling clubs and communities across the country that you could become a part of once you've become confident in your new hobby. Spending time with other people who love what you love, doing exercise that releases endorphins will make you a happier person. Try finding a club near you here.
Being healthy and in shape doesn't just mean being slimmer, it also means living longer and living better. King's College London have found that on average, those of us who ride for at least a few hours a week are biologically 9 years younger as the regular exercise means there's a much lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and obesity.
(And a cheeky final one - Sex).
The more physically active you are, the more healthy your sex drive will be. It's also been proven by researchers at Harvard University, that men over 50 who cycle for at least a few hours every week have a 30% lower risk of erectile dysfunction, than those who don't exercise regularly.