When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Spring is here, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and we have all got a little more time on our hands than usual. What better reason could there be to dust off your old two-wheeler and go for a ride?
There has literally never been a better time to go cycling. In case you’re not convinced then let me count the ways.
Cars? What Cars?
The thing that puts many people off cycling, especially starting their ride from home is that it usually means riding along the side of busy roads with cars whipping by every few minutes. One positive consequence of the current crisis has been a huge reduction in the number of cars on the roads. It’s a cyclist’s paradise out there right now so why not take advantage of it?
A Change of Scene
Speaking of the lockdown, under the current provisions we are all allowed to leave our homes just once a day to take some form of exercise. Depending on where you live this can be pretty restrictive in terms of what you can see and do. Walking will only take you so far and there are only so many routes you can take. Cycling however substantially increases your range. You can travel a lot further by bicycle than you can on foot and it’s a welcome opportunity to enjoy some new scenery.
It’s Ridiculously Good For You
The number of health benefits that cycling delivers for both mind and body is simply staggering. A regular bike ride will strengthen your heart and lungs, improve your mood and reduce stress levels, boost your immune system, fortify your joints and even improve your memory and cognitive abilities.
In a recent study a group of older adults, aged 50 and above, were asked to cycle for at least an hour and a half each week for an eight-week period. Participants either cycled on a conventional pedal bike or on an electrically assisted “e-bike”. Mental abilities, mental health and well-being were measured before and after the eight-week cycling period.
One of the tasks used to measure their mental ability was the “Stroop test”. The task involves participants being shown the name of a colour printed on a card in a different colour script – imagine the word “blue” printed in red ink. Participants were asked to state the colour of the ink that the word is printed in, rather than reading the name of the colour.
The Stroop test measures how accurately someone is able to minimise distraction from the written word when reporting the ink colour.
The study found that after eight weeks of cycling, both pedal and e-bike cycling groups were better at ignoring the written word, indicating that their mental function had improved. This was not the case for non-cycling control participants.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
Not only does cycling improve your memory it has the power to transport us back to another time, to those halcyon days of our youth when two wheels was a ticket to endless liberty and possibility. No matter what age you are cycling is an exercise in exploration and discovery… its freedom.
We’ve Got Some Catching Up To Do
The UK is currently way behind the rest of Europe in terms of cycling seniors. Cycling accounts for only 1 per cent of all journeys amongst people aged 65 and older in the UK compared to 23 per cent in the Netherlands, 15 per cent in Denmark and 9 per cent in Germany. So get out there and start riding your bikes – if not for yourself then do it for the nation!
Further reading: If you are looking around for a new set of wheels check out our Greysnet Guide to Buying a Bicycle.