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8 in 10 UK cyclists fear mental health effects if outdoor exercise banned

Survey results underline importance of being able to exercise outside during lockdown

As the UK enters a four-day bank holiday weekend with blue skies and the warmest temperatures of the year to date, almost 8 in 10 cyclists fear that their mental health will be negatively affected should the government ban outdoor exercise to try and contain the spread of coronavirus.

Next Monday marks three weeks since Prime Minister Boris Johnson told people the country that people should only leave their homes for essential reasons, including one type of outdoor exercise each day.

It is expected that on Monday, the lockdown period, which under emergency legislation needs to be reviewed every 21 days, will be further extended.

Meanwhile, any widespread non-compliance with social distancing rules could lead to stricter measures being implemented, potentially including outdoor exercise being banned.

A survey of 547 regular cyclists carried out on behalf of the specialist cycle insurance provider, Cycleplan, and aimed at finding out views about coronavirus and its impact on their daily lives, found that 78 per cent of cyclists believed there would be an adverse effect on their mental health if that happened.

> Health Q&A: Mental Health - how to seek help, how to spot the signs someone needs help

Some 66 per cent of respondents said that cycling boosted their mood, 51 per cent that it helped them reduce stress and 47 per cent that it helped them manage their anxiety.

Cycleplan pointed out that a previous survey it conducted in 2018 found a much lower level of people saying they felt a reduced level of stress after a bike ride, at 33 per cent.

Meanwhile, 86 per cent of respondents said they plan to continue riding outdoors, and 38 per cent saying that they intend to do so more often than usual.

More than half of the respondents, 56 per cent, said that the main reason they are riding outdoors is for their physical or mental health, while 29 per cent saw it as a good way to get out of the house.

For 10 per cent, cycling was a means of commuting to work, and the survey also found that since the coronavirus pandemic has led to eight in 10 people reducing their reliance on their cars, undertaking essential short trips by bike or on foot instead.

Former world champion Lizzie Deignan, who acts as ambassador to Cycleplan, said: “There are so many health benefits to keeping active and riding your bike. Not only the obvious physical ones, but the endorphins released give your mood and energy a much-needed boost at this really difficult time.

“We need everyone to follow the government guidelines, which are there for good reason, so that we can keep this much needed simple pleasure.

“It’s also great to see so many key workers using cycling as their chosen mode of transport and the reduced reliance on the car at this time.”

Cycleplan managing director, John Woosey, added: “Whilst it’s absolutely critical that the public adhere to government regulations during this crisis, we also need to remember the importance of maintaining a sense of general wellbeing.

“The exercise and fresh air offered by a cycle ride may have previously been taken for granted – but these results highlight just how vital a role cycling can play in keeping our mental health on track during this crisis. We therefore remain hopeful that this can be maintained over the coming weeks.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Mungecrundle | 4 years ago

Went out for a proper ride yesterday for the first time in 3 weeks, stayed local, did some hills, used quiet roads I know well. Did about 20 miles. Saw more cyclists than cars, more runners than cyclists and more walkers than everyone else put together. All respecting social distancing and the car drivers were all very considerate. Seemed like the way things should be.

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