A good time to get on your bike

This year’s Bike Week – organised by Cycling UK – runs from June 9 - 17. So if you’re considering making 2018 the year you get out on your bike, now’s the perfect time to start.

Cycling, after all, is good for you in more ways than one. It’s a great way to get fit while enjoying some fresh air (traffic permitting). Plus it’s good for the environment. And if you manage to use your bike for journeys you’d usually do by using your car or public transport, it could be good for your bank balance too.

Because it helps keep you fit, cycling also boosts your health in a number of ways. According to the British Heart Foundation, cycling for just 30 minutes a day – which may be about two short trips to the shops and back – will begin to benefit your cardiovascular system.

Plus one of the great things about cycling is it’s an ideal activity for people with knee, hip or back problems, since it’s a low-impact exercise (in other words it’s easier on your bones and joints than high-impact activities such as running or jogging). It also helps build bone density and strengthens the muscles in your buttocks, thighs, hips and calves. This can help with everyday activities such as walking, standing and climbing stairs and it may also reduce your risk for falls and other injuries.

As with any type of exercise, cycling helps improve your mental health by reducing your stress levels and boosting your general sense of wellbeing. And by helping you burn calories – up to eight each minute if you pedal vigorously – it can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

How to stay safe

Many people don’t cycle because of road safety fears – despite the fact that experts admit the benefits of cycling far outweigh the risk of having an accident. Here are some of the steps you can take to make sure you’re as safe as possible whenever you’re in the saddle:

  • If you or your child is new to cycling, correct training is essential – find a course or instructor at Cycling UK and at Bikeability (many schools and local councils also offer cycling courses for children).
  • Make sure your bike is well maintained and check your gears, brakes, chain, tyres, lights and reflectors are always in good working order. If you’re not sure how to check everything is working properly, read this guide to routine cycle safety and service checks by Cycling UK or ask someone who works at your local bike shop for advice.
  • Make sure you’re familiar with the Highway Code, which explains the rules for cyclists as well as giving other essential safety information.
  • Use special cycle routes, paths and lanes where available. If your children are cycling to school, here’s where you can find a safe route.
  • Wearing a safety helmet is essential for adults and children. Make sure your helmet and/or your child’s helmet is marked as meeting the British standard BS EN 1078:1997 and that it fits properly and fastens securely. Helmets should also be replaced every five years (never buy a second-hand helmet as it may not offer the right amount of protection). Reflective clothing is also a good idea, especially if you or your child are planning to be riding at night.
  • Never use your mobile phone or wear headphones while cycling, and make sure your children to do the same.
  • Be particularly careful when overtaking parked cars. Allow room to pass them safely and watch out for car doors opening suddenly.

For more information on improving your fitness levels, speak to your local Careway pharmacist. Always speak to your GP before starting any new fitness routine, especially if you have a medical condition or you haven’t been very active lately.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.