The case for short-distance cycling
It doesn’t have to be an 80 km ride to “count”. In fact, several short-distance rides every week are shown to be highly beneficial – not only to your training, but to your general health and wellbeing too.
This year, Discovery 947 Ride Joburg includes a new 40 km addition, the 947 Vitality Short Ride, starting at Melrose Arch and joining the main route on the M1 South. The aim is to encourage everyone to take up cycling, as it’s been proven to dramatically improve health and fitness.
It’s no secret that regular (preferably daily) exercise has numerous health benefits. Studies have shown that daily exercise helps lower risk of heart disease, as well as improving blood pressure and triglyceride levels (triglyceride is an important measure of heart health).
Vitality member Minesh Singh, who has signed up for the 40 km race this year, which will be his first longer distance event, was motivated by health reasons.
“I have been told I am diabetic and have a high cholesterol level. I wanted to train but cannot run so decided to start cycling. Being a Vitality member makes it cheaper and there are lots of benefits in taking part in these races,” he says.
If you’ve been tempted to give cycling a go, but worry that you’ll never find the time (or motivation) to become a 100km-on-a-Sunday cyclist, why not change your mindset and start with smaller increments. As long as you’re getting onto your bike often, it doesn’t really matter how far or how fast you go.
Research underscores the case for exercising
Regular cycling means you can have that butter croissant without feeling (too) guilty. A study conducted at the University of Bath had two groups of men massively over-eat for the duration of the study. One group exercised daily, while the other did not. Despite both groups consuming the same (vast) amounts of calories, the daily exercise group managed to offset the effects of overeating, including big spikes in blood sugar and other unhealthy metabolic changes.
Another interesting study which proves this point is the Cycling 100 Trial, where 100 commuters were given free bicycles and told to cycle to work as many days a week as they could. Not only did their fitness improve, but their LDL (bad cholesterol) levels decreased, HDL (good cholesterol) increased and tests revealed a reduced risk for heart attacks and stroke.
For the more hardcore, competitive cyclist, shorter sessions are a must in your training plan. Not only are the shorter rides easier to recover from, but you can do more of them, bringing additional benefits into many other areas of your life. Daily or almost-daily exercise is known to increase energy and reduce fatigue, improve reaction time and boost your memory and creative thinking. Cycling has also been found to reduce anxiety and depression. Regular, shorter rides are easier on the joints over the long-term and great for building the muscle strength you need when competing.
Every kilometre counts
Daily shorter distances can be healthier than weekly or bi-weekly long distances, according to a study in Taiwan. It tracked 400,000 adults over eight years, specifically looking at how much they exercised. Even 15 minutes of exercise every day correlated with a three-year increase in life expectancy.
Shorter rides are also effective for improving power and speed. If you are training for a triathlon or duathlon, a shorter higher-intensity ride can provide a valuable boost to muscle strength.
Whatever your move, move more with the 947 Vitality Short Ride, at the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg on 17 November. Starting at Melrose Arch, the short ride joins the main route at the Atholl Oaklands onramp on the M1 South. Enter now at www.947ridejoburg.co.za.
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The first time Letshego Zulu, biokineticist and adventurer, got on a bike was only a few weeks before her first 947 Cycle Challenge, 11 years ago. Now she is a seasoned professional with numerous gruelling cycling races under her belt. Discovery sat down with Letshego ahead of the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg in November and following the release of her new book.
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