Weight loss techniques and ever-changing diets are a way of life for many people. Tonnes of books, studies and online articles are dedicated to the next super-food, not to mention conflicting studies that never seem to agree on coffee and chocolate! However, one thing is certain – no amount of dieting or eating right is going to work if it isn't supplemented by some form of physical exercise. A 2002 report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) titled 'A physically active life through everyday transport' highlighted that after tobacco smoking, physical inactivity is the biggest cause for poor health.
When choosing your fitness routine, it's important to identify what you enjoy doing. If working out indoors is not your thing, that expensive gym membership will always just be an entry on your credit card statement. If you're the outdoorsy kind, cycling can be a great workout for you. It's economical and something you probably learnt in your childhood. If not, it's never too late to learn a new life skill. Cycling is a good low-impact way of starting off your fitness journey. Here's why.
It's good for your heart
Cycling improves your cardiovascular fitness. It is also known to reduce the chances of having a coronary heart disease (CHD), which is a major cause of illness and death. A study by the British Medical Association has found that cycling for 20 miles (32 kilometres) a week can reduce the risk of CHD by 50%. Cycling also improves cardiac function and reduces the risk of stroke. Additionally, it helps improve HDL to LDL ratio i.e. the ratio of good and bad cholesterol, thus preventing hardening of arteries and eventually heart attacks. The Copenhagen Heart Study (2000) involving more than 20,000 subjects found that cycling has a strong protective function vis-a-vis heart diseases.
It tones your body
There's a difference between being thin and being fit – and that difference lies in muscle strength. While cycling mainly works your leg muscles (the quadriceps and hamstrings), it also builds overall muscle strength. It improves general muscle functioning, mobility and coordination. Cycling is also beneficial for people with joint conditions, like arthritis of lower limbs, since it has a lower impact on the knees and other joints.
It burns calories
Cycling at a steady pace burns approximately 300 calories per hour. So it is a good way to lose fat and build muscle. It also boosts your metabolism long after you're done cycling. It's a solid workout yet it will not leave you too tired, thus reducing chances of you discontinuing the regime. When done regularly, cycling is an effective way of managing your weight.
As with any form of exercise, make sure that you consult your doctor before taking up cycling. If you don't want to cycle alone, many cities in India now have cycling clubs that meet regularly. Find one in your city and get going!