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Why Cycling Is A Great Exercise

Do your joints ache when you run or walk? Do you dread exercising because you feel pain during physical activity? Do you want a fun way to stay fit and healthy? Have you tried cycling?

There’s no denying that everybody likes to shed a few pounds and maintain a healthy weight. When we look good, we feel good. It sounds simple. So get up of the couch and go for a run, right?? However, sometimes it’s not so easy. Some people feel more aches and pains than others when they run or walk, most often in the hips and low back. Another common site of pain among runners is the knee. These joints are prone to a lot of wear and tear due to the force applied from running/walking. Some people have “fallen arches” which can worsen their foot pain when they run/walk. Continued repetitive stress on weak areas of the body due to weight-bearing activity can lead to injury. This leaves the body sore and damaged, and we begin to dread going out to exercise. It is a vicious circle. The good news is it is one which we can break!

Cycling has grown in popularity in recent years, especially in Ireland. Whether you enjoy a leisurely bike ride through the countryside, or you are training for the next triathlon, there’s no denying the growing numbers in cycling clubs nationwide.

Why? Because cycling is the simplest way to keep stress off the joints, yet reap the benefits of exercise.

It relaxes the body and mind; it’s just you and the road. You can push as hard as you like, you yourself are your own competition. You can slow down and admire the landscape (when our weather allows), or you can push yourself to the top of that steep hill down the road. Either way, you are out on your bike taking steps to better your health. 

Cycling can be a fun-filled family activity. A Sunday bike ride down by the canal, or along a quiet country road, can inspire your children to lead an active lifestyle – an important concept which must be taught to the next generation. It is a bonding experience and one they will always remember.

Those who cycle have 10% more leg muscle than those who do not actively participate in this form of exercise.
— Ann Prendergast - Chartered Physiotherapist Kilkenny

Cycling strengthens muscles all around the body, but especially your lower limbs. The powerhouse muscles that we use every day to sit, walk, stand, bend, lift, push, pull, and carry. When you keep them conditioned through exercise they will make our everyday tasks easier and more efficient. Cycling strengthens the muscles around the hips, thighs and calfs. Those who cycle have 10% more leg muscle than those that do not actively participate in this form of exercise. The more resistance training you do, the stronger your legs become. This includes flat stretches on higher gears, hill training, and interval training at varying speeds.

Cycling is a fantastic and invaluable rehabilitation tool. Looking back at a severe ankle sprain I once endured on the basketball court, I realised it would be months before I set foot on one again. As an active, team-based sportsperson, I quickly tired of floor based exercises and stretching regimes. I felt my fitness deteriorating and decided there was something I needed to do. I upgraded my bike and haven’t looked back since. I felt my fitness return quickly, covering more mileage in quicker times. I soon began entering road races and I caught the cycling bug. I maintain good range of motion in my joints and it aided my ankle recovery. I was flying fit by the time I returned to the basketball court. And you can be too. 

Cycling has been shown to aid recovery and improve knee joint mobility, especially after injury or surgery to the area. It is a vital part of ACL rehabilitation, and has been used in rehab following arthroscopy. Cycling can also help those with osteoarthritis of the knees as it is a non-weight-bearing activity. It is also used as an injury-prevention modality, and very popular among those with a history of low back pain, hamstring strains or calf strains.

Cycling has numerous health benefits and can be advantageous to anyone trying to lose weight or maintain fitness. It can be a scary notion that first time you hop up on the saddle, especially if it has been years since you have cycled. However, make that first push forward and you won’t be disappointed. 

Ireland now offers a tax free Bike to Work scheme, which is a great incentive to help you get started on your cycling extravaganza. Through this scheme your employer can help you obtain a brand new bike and safety equipment worth up to €1,000. You can find out more information on www.biketowork.ie

Get more information on a bike that suits you or events that you would like to participate in on www.cyclingireland.ie or follow Cycling Ireland on twitter @IreCyclingFed

If you feel like a more leisurely approach to taking up cycling perhaps check out www.leisurecycling.ie where you can pick up some hints and tips before you head out on Irish roads.