Monday, February 21

The Benefits of Cycling for Long Term Health and Fitness.

I got asked to give an addition to the website a while back. I faffed and faffed due to being away, and frankly not knowing what to write about. Should i aim it to be more performance oriented as my interests lie, should it be more general, should i just accuse everyone of being fat and needing a bike to get fitter.

I think i managed to find a common ground, drawing from my own experience of being a fat, unhealthy, angry person and what cycling and exercise did for me in many ways. Somehow i think i made it sound not to much of a rant....but has to rant when you see how fat the country is getting and where it is going to take us in the future.

Hopefully Paul won't rip this to shreds and will at least let it be posted like this....

First draft, probably lots of errors, blah blah blah Mike.


The Benefits of Cycling for Long Term Health and Fitness.

The impact that cycling can have on a persons long term health and wellness are well known within medical and scientific community. Yet among many it is still seen as an activity for the elite few requiring hours of dedication. For many during the 70's and 80's names such as Kelly, Roche and Elliot followed the peak of cycling interest for many households in Ireland. Cycling was a popular sport and for many still the only manner of transport.

Bicycles bought and ridden with so much love now remain rusting in a shed unused, unloved and unridden. We forgot what was amazing about cycling, we left it behind, and moved into the modern transportation age. We left the bike at home and we drove, rode the bus, or DARTed to work. We became apathetic.

Every year more people are diagnosed with conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes), and atherosclerosis. All of these conditions are directly related to living a sedate, inactive, lifestyle and sadly our country is following a similar trend to the United States ten years ago. Current medical guidelines from the ACSM for exercise advocate the following as minimum as targets for exercise, yet how many of us actually reach them:

Do moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week
Do vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week
Do eight to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.

One of the defining moments for me that brought a realisation of the long term health of cycling was while training in the Alps 2 summers ago. Half way thorough a long training cycle, with the Col de la Madaline as the main climb for the day, we'd just reached the summit and were waiting for the rest of the group. A man in his early 60's rode towards us on a touring bike with panniers full of food. We got chatting to him and discovered that every day he rode over the Col, 1993 meters high, every day to a village on the far side, bought his bread, and rode home. On asking 'why?' in confused tones, the reply 'Bien sur, pourquoi pas?' - 'Sure, why not?'

To advocate anyone going from zero to hero and cycling such vertical distances every day from no training would be foolish, and unreasonable. However a little reassessment of what is possible day to day to meet the MINIMUM requirements for exercise would allow for an improvement in your life as you age. With cycling as a non impact sport it is one of the easiest sports to undertake. You have an initial investment for sure, but you are free from gym fee's, free from a singular location to be allowed to exercise, and free to exercise when you want.

  • Honestly ask yourself.

    • Do I meet the minimum requirements for exercise?

    • Why do I not make these requirements?

    • What can I do to meet them?

  • Look at where you work.

    • Can you shower when you get in?

    • Can you leave clothes in to change into?

    • Can I ride into work?

  • Assess the time requirements.

    • Is it faster to ride in, or sit in traffic for an hour?

    • Can I ride with my family or partner?

  • Assess the benefits.

    • How much will you save on petrol or public transport?

    • Will you be calmer after riding in, or sitting in traffic staring at the learner driver stalling at every light on the way into work?

    • What opportunities could this open for me?


Gregory May, B. Sc: Greg is a post graduate research student in the Department of Health and Human Performance in Dublin City University and a member of the Applied Sports Performance Research Group. His primary area of research deals with understanding the factors that effect energy expenditure in different activities. As a member of the CLARITY: Centre for Sensor Web Technologies he is able to investigate aspects of real world cycling with novel technologies not previously available to coaches, athletes or scientists outside of a laboratory setting. In addition to a diverse coaching background in cycling, triathlon and other sports he is also a competitive mountain biker and triathlete. Someday he hopes to finish his Ph.D. but cycling keeps getting in the way.

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