Covid-19 has turned out to be an unprecedented public health challenge for healthcare practitioners, people as well as the authorities. At such a juncture, it is critical that we make lifestyle adjustments and take preventive measures that could help contain the threat of the disease. This not only entails practising social distancing and adequate disease prevention measures but also better management of chronic diseases, given the linkage between high Covid mortality and conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes and cancer, among others.
Interestingly, cycling has emerged as a useful strategy to control the pandemic. In the UK, doctors are advocating cycling as a useful tool to patients to get adequate exercise while ensuring social distancing, mentioned Dr Amitabha Ghosh, senior consultant- Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital, Palam Vihar, Gurgaon.
Below, he lists five ways in which cycling boosts your fight against Covid-19.
Improves overall respiratory health
Covid-19 is essentially a respiratory disease that attacks the lungs and impairs their functioning. It is important, therefore, that healthy patients (and also the recovered ones) indulge in exercises to boost lung capacity. Any exercise that makes you moderately breathless is a good exercise for the lungs. When practised daily, cycling helps you get deep breaths for a sustained period of time, enabling good lung health.
In a study by King’s College, London, cyclists experienced five times less pollution than four-wheeler drivers sitting inside a vehicle on the road, a fairly counter-intuitive outcome.
Boosts heart health
Patients with underlying conditions such as cardiovascular ailments, high blood pressure, stroke or diabetes are at higher risk of experiencing complications from Covid-19. Mortality is evidently higher in people with underlying conditions.
Again, peddling a bicycle helps improve heart health by strengthening the heart muscle, improving over-all circulation and thereby containing heart disease severity in patients. At the same time, it also lowers blood pressure and protects you against hypertension, stroke, etc. There are several studies that have illustrated the benefits of cycling for heart and related conditions.
Controls blood sugar
Cycling has been found to be beneficial for patients with different health conditions. Regular cycling has also been linked with 45% reduced risk of dying from cancer.
Cycling is also an effective way for diabetics to keep blood sugar under control. Better diabetes management and sugar control minimise the risk of health complications associated with diabetes. People with diabetes are at higher risk of experiencing severe disease or complications from Covid-19. Adopting cycling as a daily practice allows diabetics to exercise better sugar control, thereby reducing the risk of complications from Covid-19. Diabetics also suffer poor blood flow and circulation, especially to the lower body. In fact, for type 2 diabetics, cycling has been even recommended over walking as the former reduces pressure on the feet.
A number of studies in recent months have suggested that people with obesity are at significantly higher risk of Covid-related complications, even death, remarked Dr Ghosh.
The latest study led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reviewed published literature on Covid-19 patients and concluded that those with BMI greater than 30 were 113 per cent more likely to be hospitalised and faced 74 per cent greater risk of death as compared to non-obese people. Obesity has also been directly linked to diabetes, hypertension as well as heart disease.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cited his own battle with Covid 19 as an overweight patient while launching a countrywide campaign to promote cycling in July.
Regular cycling not only cuts down on unwanted fat and bad cholesterol but also reduces high blood sugar levels while stabilising them.
Exercise and travel with social distancing
In light of stringent social distancing practices being mandated, cycling is the best option for essential outdoor activities such as going to work as well as meeting recreational and fitness goals. Cycling can help people meet their fitness goals without the need for visiting gyms or other group workout sessions. It can also allow people to minimise the use of public transport for short and medium distances.
With Covid-19 triggering widespread mental health cases, riding a bike is also a great way to mental well-being thanks to those happy chemicals such as serotonin and endorphin that get released.
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