Cyclists are being subjected to plenty of abuse and criticism via the mainstream media and from anti-bike activists on social media. Tabloids such as the Mail, Sun and Express have published a series of stories which claim to show groups of cyclists – especially sportive and racebike enthusiasts – riding in groups, or at least fairly close together.
Nobody can defend an organised race or time trial being held during the Corona epidemic, but there are plenty of mental health and physical fitness benefits to be had from venturing out on two wheels. Particularly so as there fewer dangerous drivers out there, who delight in making `close pass’ overtaking moves on cyclists during normal times.
Recent research on Coronavirus has also found that obesity can be a factor in more serious cases, as patients can struggle to breathe on ICU wards when carrying extra weight. In one UK study of casualties around 70% of patients were classified as being overweight, according to research published in The Guardian. So exercise reduces the potential impact that Coronavirus might have upon your body, increases your lung performance overall and is therefore part of any sensible person’s defence plan against the illness.
Manchester based CyclePlan has conducted a survey to see how cyclists are coping with the existing exercise rules during the partial lockdown, and what the effects of a total ban on biking might be, if the government decides to tighten restrictions on personal movement even more. Here’s the press info;
More than three quarters (78%) of UK cyclists fear their mental health will be negatively affected should the government enforce a nationwide confinement without daily exercise, according to new research. CyclePlan surveyed just under 600 cyclists to get their views on the current coronavirus outbreak and its impact on their daily lives.
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On 23rd March 2020, the UK government imposed restrictions on movement which state that the public should only exercise outside once a day. However, stricter measures have been mooted by a number of experts to help control the spread of the coronavirus.
Our survey found that almost eight in 10 cyclists are concerned their wellbeing would be impacted by such a move. When asked how they benefit from cycling, 66% of respondents said the activity boosts their mood, while 47% said it helps them to manage their anxiety.
A further 51% of respondents stated that it helps them to reduce stress. This has increased significantly since we carried out a similar survey in 2018 which found that 33% of cyclists reported a reduced feeling of stress following a ride. This could therefore be jeopardised should further containment measures be introduced.
The survey also found that, under current restrictions, 86% of respondents plan to continue cycling outside, with 38% saying they plan to cycle outdoors more often than usual. Over half (56%) said the main reason behind this is to manage their mental or physical health.
A further 29% said it was simply a good way to get out of the house, while one in 10 said they still need to cycle to work.
The results also suggest that maintaining the public’s right to exercise outside will have wider environmental benefits. Eight in 10 people questioned said that, since the start of the outbreak, they have reduced their reliance on their car and cycled or walked for essential short distances instead.
Clearly, whilst it’s critical that the public adhere to government regulations during this crisis, we also need to remember the importance of cycling in maintaining a sense of general wellbeing.
The exercise and fresh air offered by a cycle ride may have previously been taken for granted. However, these results highlight just how vital a role cycling plays in keeping our mental health on track during this crisis. We therefore remain hopeful that this can be maintained over the coming weeks.
Cycleplan ambassador and Olympic road race medalist, Lizzie Deignan, had this to say about the figures:
“There are so many health benefits to keeping active and riding your bike. Not only the obvious physical ones, but the endorphins released give your mood and energy a much-needed boost at this really difficult time. We need everyone to follow the government guidelines, which are there for good reason, so that we can keep this much needed simple pleasure. It’s also great to see so many key workers using cycling as their chosen mode of transport and the reduced reliance on the car at this time.”
What an insightful article Alastair! Cycling has so many benefits. It can reduce symptoms of depression and improve memory. It also helps boost concentration and awareness. And not many people are aware of these mental health benefits of cycling.