Cycling vs Running – Which is best for you & your family?

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If you have read some of my posts before then you will know I am a huge advocate of cycling. I tend to personally cycle for my mental health, leisure and for exercise purposes. My favourite type of cycling is off-road cycling through canal pathways and former railway lines. You will regularly find me cycling on the Trans Pennine Trail. A favourite route of mine as it’s easily accessible from my house in Wakefield.

But when it comes to fitness people who are wanting to get into shape always seem to default to running and those who don’t enjoy exercise will struggle to maintain running. The January ritual of showing intent and then losing interest continues.

So I’m here to throw my hat in the ring for cycling and why if you’re a family with young children it makes far more sense to become a regular cyclist than a runner. 

Cycling vs running:

Fewer Injuries & low impact on joints:

Cycling is a low-impact exercise that involves fluid and controlled movements. There is no jerking, twisting, or repetitive pounding. It utilises all muscle groups while not having a huge impact on your joints.

When compared with running (particularly outside) there’s no comparison. Your ankles, knees, hips, and other joints can be put under a lot of stress when running which can cause injuries and restrict your ability to train consistently.

I recently completed a 16km bike ride through the woods and on various country roads and I had no lasting impact the following day. In comparison, I recently jogged a short distance having dropped something on the way to school. Following the jog, I certainly felt the impact on my joints. This may be because I don’t run often, however maintaining consistency with my exercise is something I strive for. Cycling and its low impact allow me to train weekly without gaps due to injury.

Accessible for beginners:

I’ve cycled on and off since I was a child but it’s only the past couple of years I’ve picked it up again more consistently. I would class myself as a moderate cyclist however the beauty of cycling is it’s very easy to pick up a bike and learn to cycle; particularly for adults.

Although running can be done by anyone it’s very difficult to start running a significant distance and takes time and training. Cycling however it’s achievable (particularly on flat ground) to cycle a respectable distance as a beginner.

Can become a family activity:

As a family, we enjoy cycling as an activity. The beauty of cycling is you can build it into a weekend of school holiday activity. We recently bought a bike rack which means we can visit a bunch of places while also getting some exercise via cycling. It’s great exercise, the kids love it and we usually go somewhere with a park at the end.

From a personal perspective, I think it helps this family dynamic that I also cycle for exercise. I tell my daughter about where I’ve cycled and it’s become ingrained in her upbringing. On the flip side, if I had chosen running as my cardio exercise it’s unlikely I’d have the same interest in cycling and this isn’t something we’d have likely done as a family. I can’t imagine my daughter would have had the same interest in running and we’d be less likely to take our little boy (Now 1) out running.

Cycling ticks the box and is something we build our holidays and activities around now.

Note: I appreciate there are weekly events like junior park run however cycling can be integrated as a day to day activity.

Can be introduced to day to day life:

Cycling can become a mode of transport enabling you to perform errands, go to the shops and even commute to work. These are all possible while running however cycling is much quicker and with a bike pannier rack, you can comfortably carry groceries and many other items.

I recently met a friend for a walking catch up approximately 3 miles from my home. Using my bike as a mode of transport I was able to cycle down and enjoy the walk. It felt like an amazing way to start the day by combining my favourite two modes of transport.

Following the catch up I had to run some errands so was able to reach the other side of the city quickly and effectively on the bike. Reaching home afterwards brought about a huge sense of achievement as I had exercised, completed jobs on my to-do list and also enjoyed a social morning with a friend.

Discover new places on your doorstep

The average individual can cycle much further than they can run. Cycling has opened up so much right on my doorstep; places I was unaware of before prioritising Cycling as my aerobic exercise.

It’s quite possible for the average cyclist to be able to comfortably cycle a 7-mile radius from their home. I’ve discovered nature reserves, children’s parks, cafes, shops and cycle tracks I didn’t know existed. I remember the general consensus during the national Covid lockdown was that people were actually discovering where they live. Cycling has opened my eyes and appreciation for where I have chosen to bring up my family.

Rediscover your youth:

Some of my fondest memories growing up were the school holidays. When the weather was good I would typically meet up with a bunch of friends and spend the day playing football and cricket in the park. We’d always go on our bikes. Armed with just a drink and enough money to fuel a sugar rush we’d spend the entire day outside and make it home in time for dinner.

Cycling as an adult brings back those childhood memories. It makes you feel youthful again. Cycling without thinking about emails or your next work project. It’s liberating; something as adults we experience less and less of.

Cycle until you are older:

The selling point of cycling over any other aerobic exercise is its accessibility for all ages. Children learn to ride a bike from as young as 4 years old and you can keep cycling well into your twilight years.

The fact it’s an incredibly low impact on your joints means you can carry on cycling as you get older without the worry of injury. With the emergence of eBikes even if you begin to feel your age an electric bike can be purchased to assist your cycling and ease the pressure further.

There’s no other aerobic exercise that is as possible as you advance in life.

Running seems to be the default for those looking to introduce an aerobic fitness schedule. Although running is a suitable way to build your cardiovascular fitness I believe cycling is a better solution for society. Not only is it low impact it’s also an activity that can be integrated into your day to day life. 

Individuals young and old can cycle freely and it’s an activity that can be consistently performed for years ahead.

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