OPINION

Getting more people back on the bike

Getting more people back on the bike

One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been our growing awareness that exercise is a very important habit that we should build in our daily routine - just like having a shower or brushing our teeth.

For those who exercise regularly, this statement seems obvious.

However, approximately 50 per cent of Australians do not exercise regularly, and an even smaller number meet the current guidelines for physical activity.

A great way to get started with exercise is through cycling. Bikes are not very expensive, are faster than walking and provide an opportunity to explore our natural environment - all of which contributes to mental and physical health.

However, if you have not ridden a bike for a while or have not done much exercise recently, chances are that your body will not be prepared for cycling.

This is because the position on a bike is unnatural to humans; it requires the development of strength and flexibility in order to prevent injuries.

Regardless of their level (e.g. recreational or elite), a large proportion of cyclists report pain in parts of their bodies associated with bike riding, such as back and legs.

Two key strategies have been proposed to help with this. The first is proper bike fitting, which ensures that your bike matches your body shape, goals and level of cycling.

The second is development of strength and flexibility as part of a regular bike training program - something many cyclists overlook.

When cyclists incorporate supplementary training, such as resistance exercise or stretching, into their weekly exercise schedule, they both reduce their injury risk and improve performance.

As pain can affect up to 58 per cent of cyclists, at La Trobe University, we want to get a better understanding of the benefits of these two strategies. Using telehealth technology, we are examining cyclists' body positions on bikes, and their levels of strength and flexibility. All participants receive feedback on areas for potential improvement.

Have you ridden a minimum of 20 minutes per day on at least three days per week over the last six months? If you'd like to contribute to this important national study, and improve your cycling experience at the same time, email r.bini@latrobe.edu.au.

If we can make bike riding a more enjoyable experience, it will have huge implications for our overall health and wellbeing.

Dr Rodrigo Bini and Dr Jayden Hunter are researchers at La Trobe University's Rural Health School.

This story Getting more people back on the bike first appeared on The Canberra Times.