Loughborough & District
Cycle Users' Campaign

Pedal Power

Issue 27

December 1998

CYCLING FOR HEALTH

The 1992 Fitness Survey for England found that 70% of men and 80% of women do not take enough exercise to benefit their health. The personal and public health burdens of inactivity are considerable. Almost everyone can cycle (99% of men and 87% of women in a 1989 survey) so improved provision for cycling is one way to increase physical activity levels among many sub-groups of the population.

Cycling is an ideal form of aerobic exercise with rhythmic contractions of large muscles. Even the gentlest cycling is more strenuous exercise than is usual for sedentary people. Regular cycling maintains fitness, without the strain on muscles and joints associated with weight-bearing activity. It is suitable, therefore, for the many people who carry excess weight as well as for normal weight individuals. Cycling is good for the heart (which has to work harder during cycling to increase oxygen delivery) and for the muscles themselves.

Regular cycling for personal transport, as in commuting to and from work Typically people doing this cycle at about 60% of their functional capacity, sufficient in most adults to improve fitness enough to benefit health, but not so vigorous as to be dangerous for those unaccustomed to exercise. In a Finnish study of physically active commuting to work, cycling (an average of 6 miles each way, taking 32 minutes at an average speed of about 11 mph) improved fitness by 7%.

The improved fitness itself is valuable because it allows participation in active hobbies, perhaps with children or grandchildren.

Cycling for half an hour uses 120 to 150 Calories. So, cycling half an hour per day, five days per week, uses up to 40,000 Calories over a year - the energy equivalent of more than 5 kg (11 lb) of fatty tissue. This helps weight regulation and allows higher intake of food energy without weight gain. Higher intake of energy (Calories) means that nutritional needs for vitamins, minerals and fibre are more likely to be met - particularly important for children and old people. Even if body weight is not reduced there are benefits from men who exercise regularly have no greater risk of heart attack than normal weight exercisers (sedentary obese men have a 5 times higher risk).

In a study of British civil servants, men who reported cycling more than an hour per (or > 25 miles per week of other cycling) had less than half the risk of heart attack compared with sedentary men. The blood pressure-lowering effects of frequent short sessions of exercise decrease the likelihood of developin hypertension.

Regular, frequent aerobic activity - like cycling - is associated with a reduced risk of adult-onset diabetes and also improves the body's handling of dietary fat.

Weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones (particularly important for women). Cycling is not maximally effective but muscle strength is improved so that the risk of falling - which usually precipitates an osteoporotic fracture - is reduced.

The muscles strengthened are mainly those which are so important in climbing stairs and in rising from a low chair or toilet, for example. In older people maintenance of strength in these muscles helps independence and quality of life.

Reference: British Medical Association (1992) Cycling towards health and safety. Oxford: OUP

Reproduced by kind permission of Adrianne E Hardman, Reader in Human Muscle Metabolism, Loughborough University. November 1998

CYCLE MAP

A cycle map has been under consideration for a long time. The article above and the meeting with Len Almond from the Department of Physical Education, Sports Science and Recreation Management at the University in November has shown us that we must encourage more people to cycle from the health point of view. One of the ways to get people to cycle more is to tell them about the cycle routes in and around Loughborough. Most of the cycle routes are well hidden so the casual observer would do well to spot them. The Tourist Information office have requested maps so there is obviously a demand.

What sort of map would be useful? Most other cycle maps take a standard street map and add the cycle routes in colour. The University have produced an A4 map which is diagrammatic. Should we include leisure rides and general information on the back of the map or should these be separate? Should we produce the map ourselves or should we operate in partnership with the council? These questions are quite important so I would like your views. The map is not for readers of this newsletter, you should already know where to go but for people who haven't used a bike much before and need some guidance. Please ask your non-cycling friends "What sort of map would help you?". If we distribute a street map widely will people pick it up to find a street then realise how easily they could cycle there?

CHARNWOOD CYCLE CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE

The Squire de Lisle has finally agreed to allow cyclists across the park. The council doesn't own the land so it can't do anything. Sustrans however, can essentially do as it likes so it is going to improve the path and sign the route. The path won't be up to their full standards but will a major improvement. Pat Davis of Sustrans is to be congratulated for his efforts over many years to get this route through. There will soon be a choice of two cycle routes between Loughborough and Shepshed. Is this one too many, no, it will give cyclists a choice of both typec route and of location, the Garendon Park route will be much quicker in some cases.

Lowden way which is a cycle path between Shelthorpe Road and the Cemetery should be built in 1999. This will complete the Millennium route.

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