Expert opinion: Matthew Haines is a BASES-accredited sports physiologist and senior lecturer in health and wellbeing at the University of Huddersfield

Britain has an almighty weight problem, and we hear time and again that exercise can’t provide the solution — but I disagree.

OK, it’s true that the effectiveness of exercise for weight loss varies markedly between individuals, but for very many people cycling really is the ideal activity for keeping body mass in check.

Recreational cycling is low-impact and requires a high rate of energy expenditure over a relatively long duration. A Metabolic Equivalent or ‘MET’ is a measure of the amount of oxygen, and by association energy, consumed per minute during an activity, relative to rest. One MET equates to the energy required to do nothing.

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Moderate-intensity cycling uses about eight METs, while cycling at 14-20mph uses approximately 10 to 16 METs. Clearly, then, cycling is excellent for burning off surplus calories.

Of course, food intake needs to be controlled, too. However, trying to lose weight solely via dietary means will likely result in failure.

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Humans evolved to seek food; our drive to do so was essential to our survival — it’s hard-wired. Dieting (especially fad diets) is not a public health solution for societies where more than half of adults are overweight — typically, weight lost through dieting is soon regained.

With this in mind, the potential for cycling to contribute to a negative energy balance should make it a key strategy.

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What’s more, cycling is a virtually carbon-neutral, active transport solution that helps reduce pollution and congestion.

Both observation and intervention research show that commuter cycling results in improvements in cardio-respiratory fitness and a reduction in all-cause disease mortality, including excess weight and obesity.

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Arguably we should stop searching for a weight-loss silver bullet, which remains elusive, and instead find an approach that we might deem to be ‘good enough’. Cycling fits the bill.

And as you lose weight, you not only reduce your inert body mass but also improve your aerodynamic profile — free speed!

  • Fergus Nash

    Lynskey Backroad is the way to go, no weight limit and has a lifetime warranty if do manage to break it. Ride 36 spoke wheels and some good touring hubs and there will be no stopping you.

  • Andy S

    A Surly Long Haul Trucker will take at least 300 lb (21 st) passenger plus cargo. A Surly Big Dummy will handle your weight for sure.

  • Karl Bedson

    Please can someone give me the name of a bike (needs gears for hills) which will accommodate my 24 stone.

  • llos25

    Muscle weighs more than fat so the chances are you will increase your weight with cycling the main answer to weight loss is your diet.

  • eminusx

    Sad truth is most people dont want to go outside when its chucking it down, grey or windy, which it generally is in the uk, unfortunately it feels like a massive, miserable effort to a lot of people. So the ‘interior lifestyle’ has become the norm, gaming, tv the usual sedantry activities that keep you sheltered from the awful weather. If our climate was like Spains I guarantee people would be more willing to get outdoors. Poor weather sets the precedent as its so frequent in the uk.

    People underestimate how much the weather effects the UK and its people, that joke about ‘always talking about the weather’ exists for a reason. . .

  • Lee Wingate

    Stop looking for the quick fix. Eat less and move more, a fairly simple equation really!