Yorkshire is enjoying the Tour de France Grand Depart passing round the country this weekend – and health experts are hoping Doncaster people will be inspired to get on their bikes and give cycling a go as a result.
“Regular physical activity is a key part of achieving energy balance - helping to prevent obesity and excess weight,” said Dr Cathy Read, a Consultant in Public Health specialising in Health and Well-being with the Public Health England (PHE) Centre in Yorkshire and the Humber. “It also reduces the risk of many chronic conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, mental health problems and muscle, bone and joint conditions.”
The Department of Health (DH) recommends that adults take at least 150 minutes – two and a half hours - of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. Children over five should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day.
“Physical activity that can be incorporated into everyday life, such as brisk walking and cycling, has been found to be as effective for weight loss as supervised exercise programmes,” Dr Read said. “As a form of exercise, cycling has broad appeal and is an activity the whole family can do together. The younger members can join in and age is not necessarily a barrier – cycling is easy on the joints so grandparents can come along too!”
Cycling is a low-impact type of exercise, so it’s easier on your joints than running or other high-impact aerobic activities, but it still helps you get fit.
“Regular cycling stimulates and improves your heart, lungs and circulation, reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases,” Dr Read said. “For example, someone who weighs 80kg (12st 9lb) could burn more than 650 calories with an hour’s riding.
“Cycling really is good for your all-round health - mental health conditions such as depression, stress and anxiety can be reduced by regular bike riding. This is due to the both the effects of the exercise itself and because of the enjoyment that riding a bike can bring,” Dr Read added.
Public Health England nationally is committed to working with national and local partners to promote increased physical activity. For example, this summer PHE’s Change4Life campaign will help families to keep their children active through ideas about how they can get going every day.
“We know there are often legitimate concerns about the risks of cycling in heavy traffic and on busy roads and so we are working with our partner organisations too on what can be done to make cycling – and other sorts of active travel like walking – safer,” Dr Read said.
PHE and the Local Government Association have produced a briefing document for local authorities on taking action to create environments where people are more likely to walk or cycle for short journeys