Cycling lowers hypertension, prevents diseases, fights stress and … outsmarts traffic!
Most of us know this scenario only too well – you’re sitting in traffic, nothing much on the radio, CD you’ve heard a 100 times, you’ve been scrutinized by the people in your immediate vicinity until it’s embarrassing and then, out of nowhere, a cyclist wizzes past you. As you watch their cool gear, envious calves, and traffic-less lifestyle disappear into the distance, are you left promising yourself to try biking?
Cycling is not only economical, eco-friendly and a stress-reliever, but it is healthy ― regular exercise helps maintain a healthy body weight and prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are brought on by hypertension, obesity and other conditions. The Worldwatch Institute, an independent research institute devoted to global environmental concerns, says that every year over 36 million people (including 29 million in low- and middle income countries) die from NCDs — nearly two-thirds of the world’s annual deaths. One reason is increasing physical inactivity:
“For an adult, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity — walking briskly or cycling, for example — five times a week is sufficient to promote and maintain health. But the daily lives of people in both developed and developing countries are becoming increasingly sedentary and, nowadays, at least 60% of the world’s population does not do even this modest amount of exercise.”
Chinese cities still register some of the highest cycling rates in the world, although electric bikes are a burgeoning market segment ― maybe quicker and less stressful in traffic, but no health benefits there.
Rural dwellers in India however, are making headlines with their healthy cycling habits. A study of 4,000 participants found that 68.3% of rural dwellers cycle to work and 11.9% percent walk. Out of their urban counterparts, only 15.9% cycle and 12.5% walk. The study, conducted by Imperial College London and the Public Health Foundation of India researchers and published in medical journal PLOS Medicine, also established that half of those who get to work using private transport and 38% who use public transport were overweight, compared with only a quarter of those who walked or cycled. The study showed similar patterns for rates of high blood pressure and diabetes!
Bottom line is that people who walk or cycle to work are less likely to be overweight, have high blood pressure, or diabetes. Encouraging more people to use physically active modes of transport could reduce rates of important risk factors for many chronic diseases, including hypertension.
Check out whether your city has a public bicycle rental program – these are great ways to get around town without even owning your own set of wheels.
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