Get Fit Outdoors: Cycling

Take to two wheels to get fit for free in 2016 

It’s January again and the world wants you to get into the gym and get your fill on kale and seeds. Gym memberships can be costly so over the next few weeks we aim to bring you reasons to forget the pressure of the gym and enjoy the freedom of the outdoors in our #FreeGymForLife initiative.

This week, we focus on Cycling.

Cycling is one of the best low impact exercises for a fit and healthy lifestyle. It can improve your own health as well as being an easy outdoor activity to get the whole family involved with. It’s estimated that over 3.1million people in the UK cycle monthly, making it one of the top 5 recreational sports. Cycling a great way to get out and see some of the country, but it’s also a hobby that is kind enough on the joints to keep you going even in old age.


Fitness benefits of cycling

Work one of your biggest muscle groups
Looking to lose weight? You need to get your metabolism working and blood pumping, the best way to do this is to get to work on those large muscle groups.

Improve muscle tone
Cycling will gradually work legs, thighs, hips, and the rear end and help to tone up those muscles over time.

Improve your stamina
Regular cardio will improve your fitness stamina and help stop you getting out of breath so easily. Cycling is a great exercise for this as you will find it’s easier to go longer distances/times on a bike due to the light impact it has on joints.

Burn up those calories
Like with any exercise, there is no magic number for calories burned while cycling. It depends on your height, weight, age, how fast you are cycling, the terrain (even your bike could have an effect). For example a 14 stone man can burn between 190 – 380 calories in 30 minutes of cycling over a flat surface, dependent on your speed. The more weight you carry, the more calories you will lose.

Work the body
Mountain biking, hill riding or any form of cycling where you are out of your seat will help to work your full body as you shift your weight from side to side.

Health benefits of cycling

It’s easier on your joints than running
Cycling takes away the impact on the joints that running can have. While running can take it’s toll as your weight hits your knees and ankles with each foot plant, cycling gets the muscles working in a much more joint friendly way.

It can reduce stress
All exercise has been proven to lower your stress levels, and cycling is no different. Cycle commuters are actually considered to be much less stressed (up to 40%) than their car/bus counter-parts.

Improve your heart health
A study by the British Health Association found that cycling 20 miles a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by 50%. Much like toning your leg muscles, your heart muscle needs to be put to work to stay healthy as well.

Vitamin D
A.k.a the sunshine vitamin, getting outdoors is the best way to get more vitamin D into your life. This vitamin can help to improve you immune system, your mental health, your cardiovascular health.


Need more reasons?

Set your own records, beat your own records
The best way to keep exercise fun and to keep you coming back for more, is to record your progress. As well as plenty of free and paid for smartphone apps (Strava, MapMyRide etc) that can map your route, tell you calories burned, mileage etc, you can also find dedicated gps products from brands such as Garmin. This is a great way to record and beat times, beat distances, or simply keep track of all your cycle activity over a year.

Get fit, and raise money for charity
Looking for a goal? Set yourself a challenge and raise money for a charity close to your heart. Cycling is hugely popular with fundraisers as it enables them to set truly gruelling challenges. Lands end to John o’ Groats anyone? Maybe start off small and build from there.

Get the family involved
Outdoor activity is the best way to get the kids involved in a healthy lifestyle. Riding a bike is practically a game, so it’s easier to get kids enthusiastic for a bike ride than some other outdoor activities. There are thousands of family friendly cycle trails around the UK just waiting to be discovered.

Save money on shorter journeys
According to the RAC the average yearly cost of owning a car is £6689 a year, with most journeys being less than 5 miles. Heading to the shop? Use two wheels, not four.

See More
Cycling is a great way to explore, you can cover usually cover greater distances than on foot, and it’s easier to get off your bike and have a look around than if you were in a car.


There’s more than one way to cycle

Cycle commuting
Switching to a bike for your commute is the most obvious way of making sure you get your daily dose of exercise. Arrive at work each morning with a fresh head, and adrenaline pumping ready for the day. It’s worth checking with your employer to see if they are part of the governments cyclescheme, you could save money on a new bike.


Road cycling
Fancy yourself as the next Bradley Wiggins or Chris Froome? Road cycling is ideal for those looking for a bit of speed from their cycling. Slim line tyres, challenging ascents and free rolling descents make for a great day on two wheels. Road cycling is even better in groups, it’s worth checking your local area for cycling clubs and hit the road with others around you to challenge what you are capable of.
Mountain biking
Nervous about road traffic? Mountain biking takes the hobby off road and into the hills. With plenty of downhill trails around the UK for bikers of all ages and experience (such as Lady Cannings trail, which we helped to open near Sheffield), mountain biking will make you feel like a kid again. Jumps, turns, puddles and plenty of mud make mountain biking such a fun hobby. Riding stood up, and carrying your bike for certain parts also make for a solid full body work out.

The skill driven branch of cycling offers the same health benefits as the others and makes for a great full body workout (due to you rarely being sat down) with the varying terrain of ramps, pipes or the street, BMXing will help shred those calories in no time. Much like road biking, there’s a great sociable community that goes along with BMX, making it worth your spare time.
Looking for some inspiration to get started? Try these

10 Cycle Routes in the Peak District
10 Lake District Cycle Routes
10 Cycle Routes in Snowdonia National Park
10 places to cycle in Loch Lomond & Trossachs Park

British Cyclings calendar of cycling events

Mens Health Cycle to work workout