Think cycling is a niche sport? People of all ages and fitness levels can do it – and gain many health benefits, says sports scientist, Kathy McQuaide-Little. Here’s why you should give cycling a go in time for this year’s Discovery 947 Ride Joburg.
You may be watching this year’s Tour de France and be blown over by how fit the cyclists are – but don’t let their impressive athleticism intimidate you out of taking to a bike yourself. The wonderful thing about cycling, says McQuaide-Little, sports scientist at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, is this simple truth: even a novice can obtain substantial health benefits from moderate intensity cycling of reasonably short duration.
6 reasons everyone should hop on a bike this year:
- You live longer: In a research study published in 2000, 30 000 people who cycled three hours a week were followed for 14.5 years. Their mortality rate declined by 40%, accounting for their age, health status, education level and socio-economic status. A really encouraging finding was that older people actually benefited even more than younger people.
- You decrease your risk of chronic diseases: While there is extensive research illustrating this benefit, a fascinating study called the Cycling 100 Trial was conducted where 100 commuters were given free bicycles and instructed to cycle to work at least some days of the week. Not only did their physical capacity and aerobic fitness improve, but their LDL (bad cholesterol) levels decreased and their HDL (good cholesterol) increased. They also experienced a reduced risk for heart attacks and stroke. Similarly, research shows that an active lifestyle decreases your risk of other chronic diseases of lifestyle such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and high blood pressure.
- You keep those extra kilos at bay: Weight control involves a careful balance of energy intake and expenditure. If cycling at a moderate intensity, you can burn about 300 to 400 calories an hour. Assuming your dietary intake remained unchanged, and you cycled three hours a week, for a year, burning on average 350 calories an hour, you could lose about 7.5 kg in a year.
- You lower stress and lift your mood: Regular cycling can improve how you feel about yourself; it can decrease levels of depression, anxiety and stress, as well as premenstrual stress (PMS) in women. It can also improve positive mood states such as vitality, vigour, and improve your self-esteem.
- You become stronger and more coordinated: Cycling, especially uphill, greatly improves your muscle strength, particularly in your legs and core muscles. This might not seem that important to a young person, but to an older person, it can make climbing stairs and getting out of low chairs much easier. It also decreases an older adult’s risk of falling and sustaining a hip fracture, which helps them remain independent for longer.
- You get fitter: You don’t have to do much cycling to improve your fitness substantially. A study conducted by the British Department of Transport showed that after just six weeks of commuters cycling only six to seven kilometres a day, four times a week, their fitness level improved by 17%. If the distance was doubled to 12 km a session, the fitness improvements could have been even more substantial.
Make 2019 the year you move more and #RideJoburg
It’s also a good idea to find an event for which to train – this will help to keep you focused and motivated. This year’s Discovery 947 Ride Joburg event offers a brand-new 40 km road route, which is much more accessible than the traditional 94.7 km – so why not commit to better health and a new adventure by signing up today!
Get cash back on a road or mountain bike with Vitality
Eyeing a beauty of a bike, but hesitating at the price? Vitality Active Rewards is here to motivate you. When you activate our Bike Booster benefit, you can get up to 25% cash back on a qualifying mountain or road bike purchased from Cycle Lab.
There’s a wide range of mountain and road bikes available – check our list of qualifying brands to find your favourite one. And remember – if you’re a Team Vitality Cycling member, you can activate Bike Booster in the Discovery app, at no extra cost!
Join Team Vitality to enjoy a VIP club experience at races
Join Team Vitality and get 50% cash back on registration entry fees for selected events. You will also receive a Team Vitality starter pack with great race gear and vouchers. Even more rewarding is that you'll have access to our VIP hospitality at certain events on the Team Vitality race calendar, simply by wearing your Team Vitality race gear at these events. Get the full scoop and sign up here.
Get up to 75% cash back on your Vitality-linked heart rate fitness device
Achieve your monthly Vitality Active Rewards goals to get cash back on a brand-new fitness device. Activate Device Booster and get up to 75% total cash back on your qualifying heart rate fitness device purchased from your preferred HealthyGear partner: Sportsmans Warehouse or Totalsports.
Want to take your cycling to the next level this year? Instead of spending more hours training in the saddle, achieve the endurance you need by strengthening your core muscles. Here's how.
Simple enough for a child to master, but challenging enough to keep Chris Froome's heart racing - cycling is a sport that can be enjoyed at almost any age. However, middle age may just be the perfect time to start. Find out why and learn even more with seven key tips for cyclists over 40!
As the official wellness partner of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka (who are currently competing in the 2019 Tour de France), Discovery is challenging YOU to show your support for them, and for the less fortunate, when you #MoveMore4Qhubeka this July!