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Cycling can be great for your health.

Cycling can be great for your health.
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Cycling and your health

4-minute read

People of all ages and from all walks of life can enjoy cycling.

Whether you're cycling to work, to school, to the shops or just for fun, the humble bicycle is an easy way to get more active.

Regular cycling is an aerobic exercise that has a range of health benefits, including:

  • reducing the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke through improving your cardiovascular fitness
  • boosting your mood
  • keeping your weight under control — cycling raises your metabolic rate and burns fat
  • strengthening and toning your muscles

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease? Use the Risk Checker to find out.

Riding a bike suits people of all ages, especially older people who may need low-impact exercise that doesn’t wear down joints. Cycling can help to strengthen muscles around the knee without traumatising the knee.

But if you want to strengthen bone health to prevent osteoporosis, cycling may not be for you, as it not weight bearing. Cyclists also need to do weight-bearing exercise (like walking) to prevent osteoporosis.

Cycling also has health risks, such as the risk of being injured in a traffic accident and of inhaling polluted air. But research has found that the health benefits substantially outweigh the risks, with one study calculating that the health benefits of cycling are 21 times higher than the risk of injuries.

For health benefits, adults and older adults are recommended to do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.

Children and young people are recommended to do at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity every day.

A 30-minute ride, where your breathing is quicker and deeper, will count towards your recommended activity target.

This guide is designed to make cycling a safe and enjoyable experience for beginners, and provide you with tips on staying motivated.

Before you start

For most people, cycling is a safe and effective form of exercise. If you have any health concerns or an existing medical problem, see your doctor before you start.

If you're just getting started, take it slowly and increase your cycle rides gradually. Any improvement on what you currently do is beneficial. Ensure you stop and seek medical advice if you are feeling unwell.

For short journeys, any good working bike will do. You might have an old shopping bike or a bargain mountain bike that you could use.

If you're buying a second-hand bike or you have an old bike that's been gathering dust, consider having it serviced at a specialist bike shop to ensure it's roadworthy.

If you're buying a new bike, there are many models to choose from. Hybrids, road bikes and mountain bikes are the most popular.

A specialist bike shop will advise you on the correct frame size and help you select a bike to suit your budget and the type of cycling you want to do. Make sure it has good quality head and tail lights.

There are also bikes available for people with disabilities.

Safety first

Remember, wearing a bicycle helmet is compulsory in Australia. To make sure you can be seen, wear light and bright clothes during the day and reflective clothing or a vest at night.

Starting out

If you haven't cycled much before or you're out of the habit of cycling, find yourself a traffic-free area to start off in, such as your local park.

Practise riding single-handed so you can make hand signals, and get comfortable looking over both shoulders to improve your visual awareness. Some people prefer to attach a small mirror to their bike's handlebars or helmet to help them see behind them.

Before you start cycling in traffic, check the road rules and regulations for cyclists.Staying motivated

Make it a habit

The easiest way to ensure you cycle regularly is to use your bike as a means of everyday transport. If you want some company on your bike ride, whether it's to work or just for fun, find a cycling pal.

Cycle to work

Commuting by bike is cheap, green and one of the easiest ways to fit exercise into your routine. Ask your office manager or human resources representative if there are showers and bike storage available.

Cycle to school

Riding to school is a great way to get the kids more active. Cycling has many benefits for children such as improved health, confidence and concentration. Parents may want to accompany younger children, which makes it a good way for grown-ups to get cycling too.

Mix it up

There are many places to cycle in cities and the countryside. Cycling is an ideal way for friends and families to explore their neighbourhood and beyond.

Join a bike ride

From charity rides to park cycles, signing up for a bike ride is a great way to stay motivated and experience the great outdoors.

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Last reviewed: October 2020

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