Benefits of cycling for mental and physical health – Dr David Crichton

As Doncaster prepares for the Tour de Yorkshire to arrive in town next week, I’m sure there will be an increase in the numbers of people cycling, as a big event like this really does motivate and encourage people to consider cycling.

There are so many benefits to be gained from regular cycling, including reducing your risk of chronic illness such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.  I really do enjoy cycling and thoroughly recommend it as a pleasurable way of keeping fit and getting the whole family involved. As a doctor, I also know why it’s so good for you, here’s why:

  • it’s a low impact form of exercise, therefore easier on your joints compared to running or other high impact aerobic activities
  • it involves every part of your body, not just your legs. It increases stamina and muscle tone and is particularly good for keeping knee and hip joints mobile
  • it’s a good way of getting rid of unwanted calories. Steady cycling will help you burn around 300 calories an hour
  • it reduces stress and low mood and improves well-being and self-esteem

You may recall, I took part in an epic cycle ride last summer, travelling from Land’s End to John O’ Groats, covering a staggering 981 miles in just 9 days.

The health benefits I enjoy from my cycling include; general fitness, better sleep and it’s a great way to bust stress and lift my mood if I’m feeling a bit low.

I do get very hungry after a long ride and this makes me think about and plan my meals so that I get the right balance of carbohydrates, protein and lots of fresh fruit and veg.

I always have to remember to drink plenty of water and this helps me keep hydrated. It’s so important in the warmer weather.

If you are unsure where to start, there’s a beginners cycling guide from the NHS here and also an article from Cycling Weekly about the benefits of cycling here

If you want to find out if cycling is for you, why not visit Club Doncaster Foundation’s Bike Library at the Keepmoat Stadium, where you can hire a bike for free. It’s available during the week and weekends and you can hire for yourself, family and friends. There are even trailers to hire for children who don’t ride and you can also hire safety helmets, lights and a lock (all for free). There is a flat path to cycle around the lake and staff at the Bike Library will help you plan a route which avoids traffic, if this is what you want to do.

I hope the Tour de Yorkshire will inspire you and help encourage you to consider taking up cycling. It really is a good form of exercise. If you don’t enjoy cycling, you can still gain health benefits from walking and there are lots of groups in Doncaster if you want to walk with others:

Doncaster Ramblers

Get Doncaster Moving

Doncaster Health Walks and

Doncaster Council

all have information about local walks and  walking groups. As we enjoy lighter evenings and warmer weather, now is the perfect time to plan a new fitness challenge. The NHS has lots of good advice and information, including ‘Couch to 5K‘, which aims to help you start running over a 9 week period.

Whatever your chosen exercise, I hope you’ll enjoy the Tour de Yorkshire and find inspiration to improve your physical and mental health.

David

Dr David Crichton
Chair
NHS Doncaster CCG