Get on your bike!
Credit: Image via crative commons at Flickr, from

The success of Britain's athletes during the Olympic and Paralympic Games has had a knock on effect on people in the UK, with many inspired to do more exercise and take up sports that they have either never tried before, or have not participated in for a long time.

Cycling has already enjoyed a major boost thanks to the efforts of stars such as Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton. The knock-on effect of the Olympics on the sport of cycling – already dubbed the Wiggins effect – has led to reports of spikes in sales of new and second-hand bikes across the UK.

Cycling is a fantastic sport for anyone looking to increase their fitness or perhaps simply get out into the fresh air with their family. As a form of cardiovascular exercise, or aerobic exercise, it will help you to lose weight by increasing your heart rate and burning calories. This form of exercise involves getting energy by using oxygen to burn fat cells. Energy is then carried to the parts of the body where it is needed. It relies on your heart to pump blood and oxygen around the body, which in turn helps to strengthen the heart muscles and reduce your chances of developing coronary heart disease.

Learning how to ride a bike is usually something that people pick up when they are children, but for anyone who never took the opportunity to learn, there are plenty of guides available online. The most important thing however is practice and confidence. If you have never learnt, or are perhaps extremely rusty, go to a quiet spot such as a public park where you will be able to learn in peace and not have to worry about traffic or other road users.

Getting the right bike is key. Trying to cycle to work every day on a mountain bike can turn into too much of a chore and likewise, attempting to get to the top of a peak on a road bike is unlikely to be much fun. Get the right instrument for the job and you will enjoy your time on a bike far more.

Coupled with a sensible diet, cycling can really help you to lose those pounds. It is important to stick with it however, even if you find it hard going at times. When you're tired and can't face cycling into work, just remember that exercise releases chemical messages known as endorphins. They are produced by your pituitary gland and give you a feeling of wellbeing. It could be just the kick-start to the day that you need.

Before setting out on your bike though, remember safety. Understand the rules of the road if you are going on public highways and always wear a helmet, irrespective where you are heading to – it could well save your life if you come off. Also remember to plan ahead and if there is any chance that you are likely to need to cycle in the dark, remember that you need to ensure your bike is suitably lit by law. Starting cycling is great fun and a great form of exercise, so why not get back on a bike today and join the millions of other people who have made cycling their favourite pastime.