What makes cycling such a wonderful hobby is that not only is it great for mental and physical health, but it’s accessible. In other words: you don’t need heaps of money, equipment, or existing fitness to get going. Another form of exercise that strikes a similar chord is, of course, walking (although walking is, on the whole, more affordable and accessible).
But why choose between the two when you can just do both? So when you’ve finally exhausted all the resources on the above list, and you just fancy a good old-fashioned walk to mix up your cycling routine, then take a look at these 6 wonderful walking routes in Newcastle.
There are many reasons to ride a bike. Whether its to increase your health, decrease your commuting costs, or lower your carbon footprint, making a habit of cycling may be one of the best personal investments you can make.
And in terms of fitness, cycling is a wonderful addition to any workout regime. Both its low-impact nature and accessibility make it the perfect choice for everyday exercise.
So whether you want a bike for work, leisure, or just a good old fashioned leg workout, keep reading for x reasons why cycling is amazing for the mind and body.
Promotes mental wellbeing
In the words of Mark Martin (whose Ted Talk we’ve featured below), “You really cannot be sad on a bicycle”. There are a number of reasons why people believe that cycling is good for mental health. One potential factor is the semi-meditative state that cycling puts us in. The rhythm and motion of cycling can help to calm and quiet our minds, whilst at the same time the need to maintain constant awareness keeps our brains active enough to shut out all distractions.
Offers a low-impact cardio workout
A huge advantage that cycling has over lots of other exercise forms is its low-impact nature. A gentle/moderate cycling routine presents a much lower risk of injury than some other more intense styles of cardio training. This is not only good news for beginners and those with lower levels of fitness, but it’s good for everyone. Cycling is the kind of hobby you can keep with you all through your life.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how fit you are, or how well-conditioned you are. As long as you have a bike, and as long as you can ride it, then you’ll always have access to a source of cardio exercise.
Cycling kicks off your day in a positive way
If you cycle to work then it’s one of the first things you’ll do in a morning, which can have a hugely positive impact on the rest of your day. Pedalling a few miles before even sitting down for your 9am coffee can bring a huge sense of achievement and satisfaction.
In fact, cycling has been identified as the happiest way to commute to work. According to a paper in Science Direct, there are four components that contribute to higher levels of commuter satisfaction in cyclists: “1) A high degree of commuting control and ‘arrival-time reliability’; 2) Enjoyable levels of sensory stimulation; 3) The ‘feel better’ effects of moderate intensity exercise; and 4) Greater opportunities for social interaction”.
Ted Talks On Cycling
Now, for a bit more inspiration and information, we thought we’d share two fantastic Ted Talks on the wonders of cycling. Enjoy!
Bicycling For Life: Mark Martin
The Amazing Way Bicycles Change You: Anthony Desnick
Podcasts are wonderful companions when we’re on the move. Whether we’re walking to work, riding the bus, or waiting for a train, a good podcast can really help the time fly by. But aside from that, podcasts can really help us get through a workout.
Not only do they give us something to focus on, but they can inspire us to push ourselves and strive for our goals. So no matter if you’re a runner, a swimmer, and cyclist or a bodybuilder, we’re sure there’s a podcast out there that can help you to stay motivated achieve your goals.
With that said, here are 7 health and fitness podcasts that we think are worthy of any exercise enthusiast’s headphones.
Host Ali Feller sits down for deep conversations with “inspiring people who lead interesting lives on the run and beyond”. And though running is the running theme that binds Ali and her guests together, this podcast goes far beyond the track to deliver interesting, thoughtful, and inspiring conversations.
In this podcast, fitness and weight loss expert Vinnie Tortorich “dispels the widespread mistaken beliefs regarding weight loss and exercise and teaches us how to lose weight, get fit and reclaim our lives”. Covering topics from the effects of sugary drinks and the dangers of steroids to goal-setting and obesity. This one’s a great listen for anyone interested in health and fitness, but also specifically those looking to lose weight.
You may already be familiar with a little platform called TED Talks… But did you also know about their podcast? In this informative show, “TED speakers answer questions you never even knew you had, and share ideas you won’t hear anywhere else, all around how we can live healthier lives”. Some of their most recent episodes (at the time of writing) discuss the “mood-boosting power of crying”, how to manage stress, and why it’s ok to forget things.
If you’re interested in marathons then this podcast is for you. Annie Spencer “shares her knowledge and experience as both a marathoner and registered nurse to help you run smarter, feel better, and go the distance”. Whatever your current running level and whatever your goals, Marathon Training Academy is certain to keep you inspired.
Host Emily Abbate talks to a range of individuals about their successes and, perhaps more importantly, failures. It’s a wellness-focussed podcast, and is a fantastic place to find inspiration, especially if you’re feeling stuck or lacking motivation.
Though an all-round excellent listen, this podcast is brilliant for those more interested in the nutritional aspect of health and wellness. Eat, Move and Live Better dives deep into lots of food-related topics. These include whether dairy is good or bad for you, why it can be difficult to stop overeating, and nutritional strategies that can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In their own words, “the one message we’d like to share is this: You CAN get healthy and fit while still living your life”.
The myriad positive effects of exercise on general health and wellbeing have been well and widely documented over the years. From higher levels of happiness to lowered risk of disease, it’s no secret that exercise is one of the keys to a healthier life. And researchers are now finding positive links between exercise and memory function.
The best bit? According to studies, even relativelyshort, moderate bursts of exercise may improve memory function in the long run.
A study by UCI researchers Sabrina Segal, Carl Cotman, and Lawrence Cahill, shows promising results for the short-term impact of exercise on memory. The study took a group of 50-80 year olds, consisting of people with and without memory deficits, and presented them with a series of pleasant images. The participants then spent 6 minutes exercising on stationary bikes at 70% of their maximum capacity. An hour later the group was asked, without prior warning, to recall the images they’d seen earlier. The results displayed a “striking enhancement” of memory in both healthy and cognitively impaired participants.
Sabrina Segal said of the study, “We found that a single, short instance of moderately intense exercise particularly improved memory in individuals with memory deficits.”
These results are consolidated by more recent findings from researchers at UCI and the University of Tsukuba in Japan (https://news.uci.edu/2018/09/24/now-you-just-need-to-remember-to-exercise/). The good news is that their work indicates that it could be even easier for usto reap the cognitive rewards of exercise. According to the study, which consisted of 36 healthy young participants, just ten minutes of mild exertion can be beneficial to brain health. The researchers observed that shortly after exercising, there was greater connectivity between the hippocampal dentate gyrus and cortical areas (linked to detailed memory processing) of participants’ brains.
The project co-leader, Michael Yassa of UCI, said, “The hippocampus is critical for the creation of new memories; it’s one of the first regions of the brain to deteriorate as we get older – and much more severely in Alzheimer’s disease [. . .] Improving the function of the hippocampus holds much promise for improving memory in everyday settings.”
According to Yassa, even short walks may be effective in improving memory and cognition. And other forms of light exercise, such as yoga and tai chi, may also fit the bill for memory enhancement.
One study in particular, conducted by researchers of the University of Columbia, compared the cognitive effects of exercise in two groups of mice. The difference between the two groups was that one was given access to running wheels whilst the other wasn’t. The mice with the running wheels (as you can probably imagine) ran, whereas the others didn’t. The results were that after several weeks the brains of the running mice showed more evidence of new brain cells and increased blood flow in the memory-related brain area.
Studies like these are very encouraging, empowering us to take control of our health and wellbeing and keep ourselves in good shape well into old age.
It’s a new year, and that means resolutions. Those solemn vows we take in order to get fit, get healthy, and shed bad habits. But one of the problems with resolutions is our tendency to become overly self-critical as we work towards fulfilling them.
Most of us, when dieting or embarking on new fitness regimes, opt for the black-and-white approach of success vs failure. We create punishing routines, and any deviation from our proposed path of progress results in endless loops of self-criticism and disappointment.
But this approach isn’t really helpful, and it certainly isn’t optimal. According to Laurie Santos — Professor of Psychology at Yale University, and host of the Happiness Lab podcast — the best way to kick bad habits and make real progress on our goals is to simply be kind to ourselves.
By using self-compassion instead of self-loathing, we can gently encourage ourselves back on track rather than ruminating on our perceived failures.
It’s not to say that self-criticism is bad. It’s no bad thing, for example, to feel guilty when we do something that’s objectively wrong, because guilt can help us learn from our mistakes. But it’s when we internalise the criticism, and direct it towards our actual being and personality, that it becomes a problem.
Believing you’re an inherently bad person because you ate a mince pie when you were supposed to be dieting isn’t going to do you any favours. Those kind of beliefs fill us with shame and can be severely demotivating. A better approach is to be understanding and forgiving, just as you would be towards a friend or family member. We’re all human, after all, and humans aren’t perfect.
The problem with the way most of us approach our goals, and especially our new year’s resolutions, is that we measure our progress based on self-esteem, which arises out of opinions and beliefs. Butself-esteem is contingent on success. Which means that when we experience a failure or setback, our self-esteem crashes and we immediately feel bad about ourselves.
Self-compassion, on the other hand, isn’t contingent on anything. It doesn’t require success in order to function. It’s just about being kind to yourself, no matter what the result.
But that’s not the same as positive thinking. It’s not the unrelenting insistence that we’re amazing despite our shortcomings. It’s simply accepting our own humanness, and cultivating a feeling of kindness towards ourselves and our efforts.
It’s also important to remember that when we set intentions and make resolutions it’s usually because we want to improve some aspect of our lives. And the desire to improve and better ourselves should be celebrated, not berated.
So this year, try practising more self-compassion. Don’t be angry at yourself if you fall short of your goals. Or if your progress is slower than you’d hoped. Be thankful to yourself for putting in the effort, and encourage yourself to keep going — just as you would encourage anyone else.
With a second nation-wide lockdown now underway, many of us are once again focussing on how to stay fit, healthy, and happy whilst confined to our homes.
And whilst some people have always preferred home-based exercise regimes, others don’t find it quite as easy to stay motivated and positive inside their own four walls.
So for anyone out there struggling to hit the home gym, we’ve got a few tips to help keep you motivated and energised, no matter if you’re working out from your bedroom, kitchen, or bathroom…
Commit to live-stream classes
Coronavirus or not, the internet offers a plethora of live online exercise classes to replicate the experience of being in a studio or gym.
One of the major benefits to live-stream classes is that they provide us with a routine and a sense of accountability and commitment. It’s easy enough to put-off pre-recorded workout videos and tell ourselves “I’ll get around to that later”, but with a scheduled live class (that you may have also paid for) it’s not so easy.
After all, it takes a much stronger excuse to skip a class than a YouTube video.
Of course, it’s all about the goals. But the key to keeping motivated at home is to go easy on ourselves.
At times it can be a real challenge to keep our spirits up and push ourselves to exercise when we’re stuck in the house. For many of us, our homes simply don’t serve as a conducive environment to working out. But setting small goals can really make a big difference to our overall efforts and attitudes.
It might simply be to take part in one live-stream class every other day. Or maybe one of your goals could be to follow along with a short workout video every morning after waking up.
Whatever they are, our goals should be challenging, but they should also feel achievable enough that we’re actually motivated to pursue them.
Maybe, in the end, when you’re stuck at home and aren’t able to go to the gym, you’re exercise routine might become a little less intense. Because it’s not always as easy to workout for hours at a time when the only place you can do it is your bedroom.
But by being kind to ourselves, and by being a little more flexible with our expectations and desires, we can still keep fit and feel great no matter where we are.
So if your normal routine involves treadmills and rowing machines, but you don’t have those things at home, then allow yourself some wiggle room and come to feel ok with chasing some new goals for a while.
Get the right gear
That said, whilst we don’t all have room for treadmills and stationary bikes at home, there are lots of bits and pieces we can get hold of to make our houses more gym-like.
Things like dumbbells, yoga mats, and skipping ropes can really help to liven things up and keep our workouts from getting too repetitive. They also won’t take up too much room and, more importantly, won’t break the bank.
If you’re interested in this side of things, then we’ve got a separate post dedicated to setting up a budget home gym which you can read here.
Try something new
When our regular routines are shaken and disturbed, we’re faced with a rare and exciting opportunity to try something completely new.
As we all know, old habits die hard, and when it comes to exercise it’s very easy to get locked into a routine. And though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (in fact, in many cases it’s a good thing), in times of turbulence we can use the chaos and uncertainty to our advantage by diving into something new.
Always wanted to try yoga but were too afraid to join a class? Ever fancied an early morning HIIT session but could never make it to the class on time? Now’s the time to do it!
Often when we try new things we tend to put less pressure on ourselves to perform. Which means there’s fantastic scope for fun and enjoyment in being a beginner.
Who knows. Online dance classes might become your new obsession.