Susan Mulligan, Integrated Clinical Services manager at Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital explains why ‘cycle fever’ is no bad thing

As Tour de France fever hits the country, many will be dusting off their wheels in anticipation of Britain’s great ‘cycling summer’.

Halfords’ shares alone have reflected a 42% rise owing to sales of cycling goods and even renowned actor Robin Williams is a bike buff – the Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting star has regularly frequented the Tour de France and told PezCycling he had ‘too many bikes to count’.

Susan Mulligan, physiotherapist and Integrated Clinical Services Manager at Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital, thinks this is no bad thing.

She says: “Not only can regular cycling improve your fitness and help you lose weight, but it also does wonders to reduce stress.

“For those recuperating from injuries to the legs or hips, sensible amounts of cycling can really speed up recovery times. As cycling is non-weight bearing, we consider it a ‘low impact’ exercise, as opposed to running or aerobics, which means it is a great way to strengthen muscles and support weakened hips and knees.”

But where to begin? Susan advises: “Riding for at least 150 minutes each week is the best way to build your cardiovascular fitness on a bike. How you do this is up to you. You could cycle to work a couple of days a week, go for a longer ride at the weekend or a few shorter rides after work and you'll soon feel the benefits.”

These include:

1. Heart: Cycling can help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

2. Muscles: Riding a bike is ideal for building muscles, particularly in the calves, thighs and bottom.

3. Waistline: Cycling faster than a leisurely pace burns calories and speeds up your metabolism.

4. Coordination: Moving both feet around in circles while using your hands and your body’s own weight to steer is great practice for your coordination skills.

5. Balance: Balance is at the heart of riding and building better balance is something that's best done on a bike, which then rubs off on everything you do.

6. Mental health: Cycling has been linked to improved mental health.

7. Immune system: Cycling has been known to strengthen the immune system, and could also protect against certain kinds of cancers.

8. Lifespan: Regular cycling has been associated with an increase in ‘life-years’.

But before leaping back into the saddle with abandon, Susan strongly suggests having a bike service: “Cycling in itself is actually a very low-risk form of exercise because it’s a non-contact sport. It’s very rare you will see someone with an injury as a result of cycling; they will have had an accident in traffic or fallen off.

“However, if your bike is set up incorrectly you may experience aches and pains and it’s really important to get bikes serviced regularly – if the bike is in bad condition you are at risk of having an accident.”