I got a letter from a reader who said – My granny started cycling at 97 years old. She has been doing ten miles per day – and now we don’t know where the heck she is! Ha! But joking aside, four years after the success of Team GB’s cyclists at the 2012 Summer Olympics thousands of us, young and old alike, regularly don our “go faster stripes” and crash helmets to race off at high speed, in search of fitness and fun. Back in the 80’s the introduction of the Mountain Bike, with its sturdy frame and wide tyres for added stability and durability tempted me. I took to my own bike in a big way and I still love to cycle today! Cycling gives us an opportunity to discover places unseen from a car – woodland paths, unmade tracks, riverside tow paths, and just sometimes a mountain!
Let’s remind ourselves of the health benefits of cycling: – stronger leg muscles, (quadriceps and calf in particular) plus improved circulation – and all from simply pushing pedals around. However, when the going gets rough the tough get going, and cycling is a superb aerobic exercise, resulting in a fitter heart and more efficient lungs. Biking on a fine day can be an enjoyable family affair, suitable for people of all ages and abilities, including those with physical disabilities. Back sufferers and those overweight can benefit too, because their body weight is supported on a bike. An outdoor spin has the added advantage of fresh air, but only if we miss out busy roads with dirty vehicles belching out fumes! (Of course we could wear a mask.) And did you know, an hour of cycling can burn up 400 – 650 calories keeping us in good shape. But if “on yer bike” doesn’t excite you – then what about “getting your skates on”.
Skating in all forms is a healthy, gutsy, indoor or outdoor sport, which promotes terrific calorie burn with its exhilarating aerobic exercise. It is excellent for working and toning bottom muscles (gluteals), and front thigh muscles (quadriceps). And by turning and jumping at high speeds, it tones and trims the inside and outside thigh muscles (adductor and abductor). Skating can be dangerous, so if you’re a beginner take a few lessons and wear adequate protection. From personal experience I recommend wrist guards, helmets, knee and elbow protectors.
Indoor skating has the advantage of being on a clean consistent surface, which discourages impact injuries (a risk with outdoor skating). Skating to music at the rink is a plus, encouraging rhythm and style and is excellent for balance.
So if you want to put distance between your granny and you – maintain your fitness through summer, get those wheels turning, have fun and keep fit in the fast lane!