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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.

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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 has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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