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Cycling your way to fitness; 30,000 Merseysiders take part in bike scheme.

Byline: TINA MILES

THOUSANDS of Merseysiders are getting on their bikes to keep fit.

Men, women and children across the region are becoming active and helping the environment by cycling for fun, but also to get to work or school.

John Kelly, 66, from Bootle has recently rediscovered cycling to help improve his health and fitness levels.

He was advised by pain management experts at SMILE (Self Motivation in Lasting Endorphins) that gentle exercise, such as cycling, can help control the chronic pain he has been experiencing in his back and legs in recent years.

He said: I used to cycle a few times a month when my kids were younger. It was a great way to keep fit and we had some good days out riding from our home in Bootle up to Crosby beach.

"I started cycling less when the kids left home, which is a real shame.

I hadn''t been for a bike ride for years until I decided to dust the cobwebs off my bike a few weeks ago. I didn''t make it quite as far as Crosby but I really enjoyed getting back on my bike again."

He has now taken part in the TravelWise challenge, which urges local people to ride more.

Organisers say the scheme has been a huge success, with more than 30,000 young people and adults getting cycling training since April 2006 - the largest scheme of its kind in England.

New research commissioned by Mersey Transport Partnership (MTP), who ran the initiative, shows that more than a third of trainees on Merseyside are using bikes for "utility" reasons - travelling to work, school, the shops or appointments - as well as for leisure.

And almost all parents and guardians who took part in the research believed that their child's cycling safety had improved.

After training, 37% of trainees cycle for transportation reasons and more than 90% of them are cycling for leisure at least once a week.

MTP chairman Neil Scales said: "For the first time anywhere in the country we have solid evidence that training programmes like ours have a clear, long-term positive effect on behaviour and attitudes, not just of individuals who attend training but on their families, too. This impacts on their health and well being, on transport issues such as traffic and air quality, and in turn on economic growth in the area."

Paula Grey, Director of Public Health at Liverpool PCT, added: "Cycling is a proven way to improve health for all ages, so this research, with its strong evidence of behavioural change, is extremely important.

"Regular cycling can play a major part in leading a healthier lifestyle and we are very happy to be working with TravelWise to achieve a cycling culture locally.

"The research shows that with professional training and support through TravelWise, MTP is making a quantifiable difference to the health and well-being of Merseyside."

Log on to www.LetsTravelWise .org/cycling or call the helpline on 0151 330 1290 for cycling advice.

. Future rides include: Sunday August 2, 2pm - Ainsdale Lanes, starting at Ainsdale Train Station; Sunday August 2, 2pm - Heswall Meander Starting at Heswall Train Station; Saturday August 15, 2pm - Liverpool Overhead Railway History Cycle, starting at Seaforth & Litherland Train Station; Sunday 9 August, 2pm - The "Dream" ride starting at Rainhill Train Station.

ON YER BIKE: Cyclist''s before a journey from the Pier Head to old Seaforth
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 27, 2009
Words:565
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