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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 June 2006, 00:36 GMT 01:36 UK
A healthier way to commute to work
By Jane Elliott
BBC News Health Reporter

Amanda Prosser
Improving fitness and saving cash
We are all being told to exercise more, but as our lives become increasingly busy how do we squeeze the time in?

Government recommendations from Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson say we should be doing at least 30 minutes exercise five days a week.

But with the working day becoming longer, when and how do we fit it in?

Amanda Prosser, a company strategy director, thinks she might have found her answer - she has been cycling to work.

Fitness

Now she feels healthier, more toned, financially better off and she gets to work quicker.

"I do like exercise, but I was finding it very difficult to build it into my routine as I have a very desk-bound job and spend a lot of time in my office."

My general fitness is definitely better and I feel toned
Amanda Prosser

London Underground journeys from Highbury to St James's used to take Amanda, 31, over an hour, but by cycling she can cut her journey to 45 minutes and saves enough on her Tube fares to be able to afford yoga classes.

Amanda, a keen runner, was told she would have to stop because of bone density problem and she worried her fitness levels might suffer.

A friend recommended cycling and even though she was initially worried about London's busy roads she decided to give it a go.

"There is no doubt when you are cycling that you have to be more road aware. You have got to have respect for your own safety.

"For the first week or so I was very wary on the roads, but there is no doubt that I am now feeling the benefits. My general fitness is definitely better and I feel toned.

"I probably have lost a little bit of weight, but now because I am cycling every day I can eat what I like."

Amanda does admit taking the odd Tube journey when it is very cold or wet, but says the crowded Tube soon reminds her why she prefers cycling.

Exercise

A nationwide network of user-friendly cycle maps has been launched to get more people, like Amanda, back on their bikes.

The initiative by British Cycling and health company GlaxoSmithKline has eight new route guides covering Abergavenny, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Sheffield, Nottingham and London.

Jane Griffin, a freelance sports dietician and nutrition consultant, said cycling had a number of health benefits.

The main health benefits are that it could help in the reduction of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. exercise
Jane Griffin

"The main health benefits are that it could help in the reduction of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

"It also can also have a beneficial effect on mental health because it is a rhythmic exercise.

"People taking up cycling could have an improved feeling of general well-being and also find that their mental functions are better.

"And because of the nature of riding they also find they have improved flexibility and balancing."

She added that because cycling is a weight-bearing exercise, it helps in building bone density as well as burning calories.

Benefits

Dr Alison Hill, the health adviser to Cycling England, said statistics showed that those who cycle regularly have significantly better long-term health.

She said statistics showed they could expect to have the fitness levels of someone 10 years younger and a life expectancy of two years above the national average.

She said one of the reasons given for not cycling was worry about "unsafe roads", but she said that while 130 cyclist were killed annually in the UK that this should be compared to the 46,000 deaths linked to physical inactivity.

This week has been designated National Bike Week.


SEE ALSO
Thin people 'must exercise too'
06 Mar 06 |  Health
Obesity sparks diabetes fears
14 Nov 04 |  Health

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