Get on your bike for a healthy life

Exercise is essential, for health and fitness – but it doesn't have to be expensive, and it can be fun.

Imperial College London Diabetes Centre’s WALK 2014 at Yas Marina Circuit. (Irene García León / The National)
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One of the few downsides of the rapid development of this country has been an increase in preventable lifestyle-related conditions, including obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. As the economy has grown and more people have work in sedentary jobs indoors, our health has suffered.

That is why initiatives such as last weekend's Walk 2014 for diabetes awareness, and The National's new campaign to encourage people to cycle to work – which is being launched today – are vitally important. They act as reminders of the way we can and should ­incorporate healthy eating – less fast food, more fruit and vegetables – and a basic fitness regime into our daily schedules.

We must not just talk the talk about healthy lifestyles, we must walk the walk. In fact, walking for as little as half an hour a day has been shown to markedly improve fitness and reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Other simple solutions include using the stairs instead of taking the lift, doing short errands on foot rather than in the car, and throwing a little more exertion into the housework. Exercise needn’t be seen as a chore; it’s not only children who can have fun throwing and chasing a Frisbee, or kicking a ball around a park. And, given the cooler autumn weather, now is the perfect time to start an outdoor exercise regime.

Unless you plan on running a marathon or competing in an elite team sport, it doesn’t mean spending a fortune on joining a gym, hiring a personal trainer or kitting yourself out with the latest gear. While cycling does require a bicycle, it doesn’t mean you need a souped-up, titanium-framed racing machine and a Lycra suit. Any simple, inexpensive bike will do, as long as you ride responsibly and in a safe place – which is getting easier thanks to the hundreds of kilometres of cycling paths that have opened up in the capital and across the UAE in recent years.

Taking the lazy option may be easier, but it can also mean you are missing out on many of the things life has to offer.