The CTC weekly newsletter Cycle Clips arrived at my inbox today with the request to sign a petition, if 100,000 signatures are obtained it will trigger a parliamentary debate on the Get Britain Cycling report, which was published by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group on Wednesday 24th April.
One aspect highlights the benefit of cycling to general health and well being of the nation and I am firmly convinced this alone could offer a significant saving to the NHS budget which would be a welcome bonus to the cash strapped area health authorities.
I have always enjoyed and played sport. At school it was football, cricket, cycling, athletics, cross country running and gymnastics. My early twenties saw me continue with cricket and squash, my weight was around 13 stone and steady so with the addition of married life I was not concerned. My annual aviation medical showed raised blood pressure but within limits so this did not present a problem, I bent the truth with my declaration of alcohol consumption and plodded on with the status quo. By the time I had reached mid forties I had given up cricket and squash because of demands on my time but conscious of the need to exercise I resorted to the gym and jogging. A visit to the doctors confirmed my raised blood pressure and as there was family history the remedy was straight on to tablets. Through all this my weight stayed around 13 stone.
Fifty saw the purchase of a mountain bike, the gym and jogging continued but niggling injuries and pulled muscles saw a decline in the jogging and the bike got the odd hour off road at a sedentary pace, blood pressure under control with tablets, weight the same.
My eureka moment came some 2 years ago when I decided to go back to the road cycling of my youth. I started with a ten mile course around the village but watching John Bishop on TV complete a 180mile ride from Paris to Calais in a day for Comic relief inspired me to try and up my mileage and challenge myself.
I gradually increased my riding to try to get out on the bike every day, and then increase the mileage a couple of times a week to twenty miles, nothing too extreme. At this time I also started recording my blood pressure on a weekly basis and noticed I had dropped a couple of pounds in body weight.
With regular cycling came increased fitness and with the prospect of a 50 mile sportive I decided to train seriously, I upped my training mileage and cut down my alcohol intake, watched my diet, the more cycling I did the better I felt and the easier it became. Twelve months on and I have completed a coast to coast ride, just cycled my first 100 miler, lost over a stone in weight and watched my blood pressure slowly reduce back to normal levels.
I am convinced the benefits of a course of cycling instead of tablets would be a cheaper option for the NHS to prescribe for a range of lifestyle illnesses and somewhat disappointed that it took me 25 years to discover this cure. The possible improvement to the nations health alone should be the impetus to support “Get Britain Cycling”.