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A staggering 70 per cent of all car trips are less than five miles; the ideal distance for a quick spin on the bike. Perhaps we could hope to match the example of some towns in Holland and Denmark, where nearly half of all journeys are made by bicycle. A word of praise here, too, for the people of York and Cambridge, who wheel out their bicycles for as many as 20 per cent of all journeys.
The health benefits of regular exercise are becoming something of a modern mantra and you may be tired of hearing them - probably because you know instinctively that exercise is the right thing to do - but we're going to remind you anyway. Regular exercise is good for healthy hearts, weight control, posture and poise, digestion, healthy minds, skin and bones.
Regular exercise reduces several cardiovascular risks, including high blood pressure. A major study of more than 10,000 people found that those who cycle at least 20 miles a week are half as likely to have heart problems as those who don't cycle at all.
Research suggests we should be burning up at least 2,000 calories a week through exercise (far more than can be burned in the recommended 30 minutes of moderately intensive exercise at least 5 times a week); others suggest 66 minutes of exercise a day. This is a large demand on time, but is easily achieved if you turn the business of getting to work or school into your weekly exercise routine. Cycling burns 300 calories an hour, so if you do it twice a day, the numbers soon add up.
There's no doubt that regular exercise reduces the risk of problems such as depression, stress and anxiety. There's truth in the saying "Run [or cycle!] your cares away".
Exercise gives you a glow without the use of expensive creams.
Because the bicycle supports your body, cycling isn't necessarily a weight-bearing exercise (although this depends on your technique). This means it's good for people with certain bone and joint problems, but it may be less effective for protecting against osteoporosis, although all exercise helps strengthen bones and muscles to some degree.
Did you know..?
..that on a bicycle:
Â• you can travel up to 648 miles on the energy equivalent of a single litre of petrol... [2491 miles per gallon but a mountain of porridge and bananas!]
Â• you can expect to be as fit as an average person ten years younger, if you cycle frequently...
Â• you protect yourself against heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and stress...
Â• you can travel four times faster than you can walk using the same amount of energy...
Â• A reasonable half-hour each-way commute will burn eight calories a minute, or the equivalent of 11 kg of fat in a year.
Â• On a bicycle you are faster, friendlier and more free than any other vehicle in city traffic.