I remember the feeling I had when I took my bike selfie below – it was the first time I had been on a bike ride for years … and I felt brilliant! The rain poured, the wind blew and my Raynaud’s stricken fingers were chalk white… but I reached my destination, and surprisingly I had 11 kilometres of fun along the way (and 11 kilometres of fun on my way home too!)

My first cycle to university, in the wind and rain!

I studied for my PhD at Queen Margaret University, which is situated around 6 miles outside of Edinburgh city centre. I had reached the stage in my PhD when I was ‘tired of feeling tired’. I was working long hours and felt as though I had very little energy (despite sitting at a desk most of the day and lounging on the sofa in the evenings for my Netflix fixes). I used to enjoy running, but my right ankle could not cope with regular high-impact pavement batterings (I’m also a pronator!) and I developed tendonitis. A podiatrist friend of mine recommended I hang up the running shoes and get a bike.

Unknown to me, the university had an incredible cycling incentive. A term-time bike hire scheme was available, which meant I could rent a bike (a good bike!) with lights, lock and helmet all for a tenner a month! Tallying up how much money I’d save on bus and train fare it was a no brainer really. I can’t drive and the thought of being on a bike on the road was terrifying for me (still is!) but luckily for me living just off Holyrood Park meant I was able to cycle to Musselburgh without having to cycle on the roads. After a bit of googling and talking with other bikers, I quickly realised how easy it would be to bike to work. 

And it was. The first few mornings were a bit tough though – in order to reach the Innocent Railway line, I had to climb a relatively steep incline at Arthur’s Seat (anyone who has walked, cycled or ran around Arthur’s Seat will know exactly which part I’m talking about!). On those first few mornings I was being overtaken by joggers (joggers!!!) but I stayed on the bike and pushed hard (whilst dreaming of an e-bike!).

The not-so-Innocent-Railway bridge – I didn’t know about the hidden incline when pedalling back to Edinburgh

Bike time is a bit different for me these days. After graduating I began working at the University of Dundee and biking to work was no longer an option for me. I spend most of my saddle time now on a spin bike, which sits proudly in my living room. Now that I’m working from home, I enjoy a quick 20 minute ‘commute’ on my spin bike to start off my working day. Sometimes I’ll hop on the bike to break up sedentary time. That’s the really appealing thing about having my spin bike next to my sofa… Netflix and spin, anyone…?

This is what ‘commuting’ to work looks like when working from home (radio or Spotify is almost always on!)

At first I found stationary cycling a bit boring but it began to grow on me. I discovered Global Cycling Network, a great YouTube channel offering free indoor cycling training sessions. High intensity interval training is great for getting your heart rate up and blood pumping, especially if you are short on time. There’s evidence that HIIT sessions can be beneficial for improving cardiometabolic risk factors and play a role in weight management. Cycling, whether it be high intensity, leisurely or anywhere in between, outdoors or indoors, contributes to helping us reach physical activity goals and reduce the risk of developing non-communicable diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Bike riding has many benefits for health and beyond. I feel just as good after a spin at home as I do being on a bike outdoors – and if I want to feel the wind in my hair I just open up the living room window.

Start your day off with a spring in your step and give cycling a go. But just in case you need any more persuasion to get your legs moving, I’ve put together 8 reasons why you should Get on your Bike below. 

Dr Suzanne Zaremba 

Lecturer in Nutrition, University of Dundee