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Why ride?

24 June, 2011

Opportunities to be physically active are disappearing from our lives but increased inactivity is harming us. Dr Rob Moodie suggests bikes are a solution.

The way we lead our lives has changed dramatically in the last 30 to 40 years. Opportunities to be physically active have literally disappeared with the increased use of cars and labour saving devices in the home, a decline in manual labour jobs, and a huge rise in the availability of video games, TV and other entertainments that help glue our bums to our couches. At the same time we’ve never had more opportunity and encouragement to shove calories down our gullets.

No wonder we are having problems with obesity and with diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and depression. Because what hasn’t changed is the fact that human beings are fundamentally like machines: to work properly we need to regularly ‘maintain and service’ our bodies. Not surprisingly, physical inactivity leads to bodies becoming run down; vessels literally clog up or joints seize up. As they say, ‘use it or lose it’.

But the answer is at hand – make physical activity an essential part of your day, and in the lives of your family and friends. Ask anyone who exercises regularly what they get out of it and you’ll find that virtually everyone will report a sense of enhanced wellbeing, of feeling fit. They may say they are sleeping better or coping with work demands more effectively. They might not tell you, but they will most likely have an enhanced sense of self-esteem – that they are actively doing something to look after themselves – whatever their shape or size.

Bike riding is one of the best forms of physical activity. It can improve stamina by giving  the most essential organs – your lungs, heart and blood vessels – a workout. It is a low impact form of exercise, yet it builds strength through using large muscle groups. It is a highly flexible form of exercise, as you can vary the intensity and duration according to your needs.

Plus, it is easy and fun. You can ride with friends and family on the weekend. Bike riding is a terrific way of enjoying time with your children, with your nieces and nephews, god-children and of course grandchildren, if you have them.

You can ride to work and back occasionally, or every day if you are up to it. You can even ride at work by using a bike to get to meetings during the day. I love the freedom of getting to appointments on my bike. It is much faster than walking and much, much more convenient and cheaper than using my car or calling, waiting and paying for a taxi. Of course this is a great way of getting your essential daily exercise without having to do ‘extra’ work in the gym or run around the block.

Very recent research shows that not only do we need activity, but that we should also limit the time we spend inactively. When we are inactive for too long a period we start depositing fat and become resistant to insulin, thus increasing our chance of developing diabetes. So activity is not only beneficial, but high levels of inactivity can be harmful.

Rob Moodie is a Professor of Global Health at the University of Melbourne’s Nossal Institute and a former CEO of VicHealth.

Tip – Register for Ride to Work

The Ride to Work website has all sorts of info to help you get organised to ride to work. It also keeps you up-to-date, puts you in contact with other people and feeds you regular motivation and information. Register here.

This post was for day 25 of Ride On‘s June riding challenge.

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