Cycling the daily commute has helped a busy dad of nine pedal his way to a healthier and happier lifestyle – 25 years since he last rode a bike. Colin Smith from Luton shed two stone in just eight weeks by starting to cycle his five-mile journey to work a few times a week.
He now weighs four stone less than his 21 stone peak, which had prompted him to take up a free bike loan offer from Sustrans this summer as part of the NHS-funded Step by Step programme.
Colin, aged 44, said: “With five sons and four daughters it’s difficult to find either the time or the money to get to the gym, and I felt a bit embarrassed to get in my swimming trunks with my belly hanging out. So I decided to try cycling despite not having ridden since I was a teenager.
“The team at Sustrans really helped give me the motivation to take up cycling by explaining the various health benefits. I obviously knew the old saying that you never forget how to ride a bike but was still surprised by how easy it was to get back on one.”
Colin’s five-mile commute from Hatters Way to Luton town centre included three miles of National Cycle Network, enabling him to ride most of the journey on traffic-free or traffic-calmed routes.
“To begin with I was shattered but would cycle in and get a lift home from my wife Sandra, which really helped. Then she’d take me in the next morning and my bike would still be at work for me to ride home on – and I built up my fitness from there.
“Getting to work is a journey I have to make everyday – so it’s quite easy to allocate a bit more time to go by bike. I can push myself to ride fast or relax a little bit depending on how I feel, which will make it much easier to stick with than other weight loss programmes.
“I’ve really toned up and this has given me the confidence to get back in my swimming trunks and take my mum for an early swim some mornings. And I’ve got so much more energy to take my kids out down to the park or on a weekend bike ride.”
Sustrans loans out bikes to people in Luton as part of its Active Lives, Healthy People project – one of 10 walking and cycling projects set up across England. The Step by Step programme Colin took part in is a 12-week weight loss programme delivered by Active Luton with support by Sustrans, funded by NHS Luton. Any adult seeking a healthier weight can join a Step by Step group at several locations across the town.
Project co-ordinator Sarah Leeming said: “Colin’s achievement is fantastic and shows how healthier we can all become by choosing to walk or cycle more of our everyday journeys.
“Cycling raises our metabolic rate and soon tones us up – so regular cyclists are as fit as an average person 10 years younger. And for many short trips across town it can be quicker to cycle than drive, especially as you can often park right outside your destination.”
David Maslin, Interim Healthy Weight Manager at NHS Luton, said: “Colin shows how Step by Step, working side by side with Sustrans, provides great practical ways for blokes (and ladies) to shed some weight, get fitter and get around town for less; a case of ‘losing pounds is saving pounds’.”