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Bike Wise Month - February 2009

Freya Barnes - 30/01/09


Bike Wise
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Bike Wise Month is coming up. February 2009 will be 28 days of active celebration for the two-wheeled enthusiasts among us who have discovered the wonderful health benefits of cycling. What better time for you to get active and get biking?

Getting ready for a popular Bike Wise event
Getting ready for a popular Bike Wise event
Photo source: Bike Wise Month
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It seems that many New Zealanders are active in the wrong ways. We rush around all day, short on time and long on stress, wishing there were more hours to keep on top of our work and household tasks.

We take the car where we used to cycle or walk, and we eat out or buy takeaways because we're too busy or tired to cook. The snatches of leisure time we do get are usually spent collapsed in front of the television.

The health implications are obvious and dire. Kiwis' waistlines are expanding, and we're drinking at dangerous levels as we seek to unwind at the end of the day.

Perhaps it's time we considered reacquainting ourselves with the humble bicycle. Small lifestyle changes can go a long way and you might be surprised at just what a difference replacing a few car trips with bike rides can make.

Most people understand the physical benefits of biking it's low impact, aerobic, and you don't need to get fit before you start. Most people live within six kilometres of their work, and that's an ideal distance to ride. Try it a couple of mornings a week, and you'll be amazed at how quickly your body adjusts. You'll arrive at work fresher and mid-morning caffeine fatigue will be a thing of the past.

And biking is ideal if you're one of those people who always seem to be short of time. The extra few minutes needed to bike to work and biking's quicker than you might think has been spent in healthy exercise. That makes a lot more sense than driving home from work in the car and then paying to go to the gym.

There are mental benefits to cycling as well. Exercising releases endorphins into the blood creating a feeling of contentment and happiness which helps to reduce stress. In fact the psychological benefits derived may be better than those from many other forms of exercise because cycling also involves anaerobic (resistance) activity which has antidepressant effects.

Being active also helps bring on deep, quality sleep at the end of the day. You'll awake feeling more refreshed than ever and much better equipped in body and mind to deal with a new day's challenges.

It's hard to find an activity that ticks as many boxes as cycling does. It's good for the environment and good for you. It's cheap and nearly anyone can do it.

Cycling enjoyed by people of all ages
Cycling enjoyed by people of all ages
Photo source: Bike Wise Month
Click here to view a larger version

During February, more than 500 Bike Wise Month events will take place all over New Zealand. The annual Go By Bike Day (18 February) might be the ideal day to grab a few mates and find out whether cycling works for you.

To see what's on in your area, and for more information about Bike Wise Month events, see www.bikewise.co.nz

Editor's comment

I am delighted to publish Freya's article in support of Bike Wise Month. Travelling by bike has been part of our family's routine for many years. It has been enjoyable and has saved us a lot of expense, and has been good for the environment although that has been regarded as a factor only in recent years.

A sense of independence and pleasure in exercise
In the first years of my life we lived in Dunedin on the top of a hill with the only access by steep streets. I was not allowed even to have a tricycle for reasons of safety. A move to a flat area in Christchurch when I was ten years old meant that I was able to have a bike and ride to school. I loved the independence and the exercise and enjoyed meeting classmates and riding to school together. This pattern continued through my secondary school years when having a bike meant that I could ride to the Tepid Baths for lifesaving practice before school without being late for class.

Relief from carrying heavy loads
When winter brought heavy frost or rain I caught a tram and had to walk from the tram stop to the school. How I looked forward to the spring when I could ride my bike with my heavy case of books strapped on the carrier instead of lugging it in one hand and then the other as I walked from the tram to school. When I started school teaching I transported my books in a basket on the front of the handlebars. Our son and daughter both rode bikes to school, and on the days when there was orchestra practice they carried a violin on their backs in a special canvas carrying case.

Christchurch facilities for the cyclist
A number of streets which carry a lot of cyclists to schools or university have separate cycle lanes.

For those travelling from the west or northwest of the city there are cycle tracks through Hagley Park which enable cyclist to avoid many of the routes which are congested at peak hours.

On the Port Hills and in areas like Burwood Forest there are tracks especially set aside for mountain biking.




 
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