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Pedal Your Way to Better Health

Cycling brings to us more than just health benefits — it boosts your brain power and helps lower our carbon footprint, too. Here’s why you should take up this activity.

For most of us, one of our most memorable childhood experiences is probably of mastering the bicycle and the sense of achievement we get from it. But beyond being a fun family activity, cycling also brings a number of health benefits.

When it comes to cardiovascular workouts, few activities are as effective as cycling. It stimulates and strengthens your heart and lungs as they work harder to pump more oxygen in your body. The result is that people who cycle frequently are less prone to cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, high blood pressure and heart attack. A study published in United States journal Circulation found that those who regularly cycled suffered about 15 per cent fewer heart attacks than those who do not cycle.

And it’s not just heart diseases. Research in Finland has revealed that people who cycled for more than 30 minutes each day had a 40 per cent lower risk of developing lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes.

Build strength, save the planet

Cycling is also great if you’re looking to lose weight and build muscle. The resistance from pedalling not only burns fat, but also works out your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. As you pedal over longer distances over time, you’ll also build your stamina and strength.

And it’s not just physical benefits you get. As you push the pedals, your body releases endorphins and dopamine, which helps relieve stress and pain and creates feelings of satisfaction. The activity also ensures a good night’s rest, by reducing levels of cortisol in the blood, a stress hormone that blocks deep sleep.

Additionally, it aids in building new brain cells in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with memory. Scientists have compared the brains of senior citizens and found that those belonging to people who participated regularly in physical activities like cycling actually appeared younger than those who did not.

“As we age, it is difficult to retain a sharp memory. Cycling aids in memory retention by engaging all our senses and keeping our minds active,” said Mr Francis Chan, leader of the NUSS Cycling Interest Group.

Beyond the personal health benefits, cycling is one way you can contribute to saving the environment. Choosing to ride from home to work regularly is one of the simplest ways you can lower your carbon footprint, as bikes do not release any emissions. And according to a study by the European Cyclists Federation, the amount of carbon dioxide released in manufacturing a bicycle is just 16 grams, compared to 313 grams for a car.

“As we age, it often becomes difficult to maintain a sharp memory. Cycling helps keep minds active.”

Get your miles in

If these benefits appeal to you and you’d like to pick up cycling, NUSS’ Cycling Interest Group is the one for you. This group brings together cyclists of all stripes, from seasoned riders to newbies looking to take on this hobby.

Rides are organised on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. The group rides for about two hours each session, covering an average 30 to 40 kilometres. There are different routes, from simple, straight roads to uphill climbs and narrow paths, to give everyone a good enough challenge. To help everyone keep up, those new to cycling can count on the experienced ones to guide them in tackling the different types of terrain.

Members also take part in externally organised events, such as the GetActive! Singapore Round Island Bike Adventure and the 160-kilometre Bike Rally organised by Nanyang Technological University.

Besides regular rides, the group also holds talks and sharing sessions on basic bike maintenance, exercises cyclists should do at the gym and more.

And it’s not just cycling that brings this group together. Members often meet over a meal or a drink, to catch up and chat about their week. They also organise informal rides in smaller groups, such as night rides that include plenty of feasting at Singapore’s favourite supper spots

Tips for new cyclists

1. Ditch the headphones
Cycling with headphones on is extremely dangerous — not being able to hear other vehicles around you puts not only yourself but also others on the road at risk.

2. Wear a helmet
Always wear protective headgear — it lowers your risk of fatal head injuries.

3. Check your fit
Having your bike set up to fit your body will make cycling easier and result in less pain and soreness from riding.

To enquire about the Cycling Interest Group, contact Khen Kee Wei at 6586 3739 or keewei@nuss.org.sg

Visit nuss.org.sg to find out more about activities at NUSS that help keep you mentally and physically fit.

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