My Life Has Been Recycled; the Bicycle Has Been Voted the Greatest Invention of the Past 200 Years. One Standard Writer Finds He Agrees-

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW NEATHER

ALMOST a year ago, I started cycling to work - a journey of about six miles each way. It's a move that still provokes reactions that range from admiration to incredulity - but it's not one I regret. Indeed, it's made me an addict: I feel sluggish and restless if bad weather stops me getting on the bike for a couple of days.

Yesterday, for instance, I cycled across Battersea Park in brilliant early morning sunshine, alone with my thoughts rather than squeezed on to a train between equally grumpy commuters. It takes roughly the same as the Tube and train journey, about 35 minutes. And despite the exertion, I find cycling gives me more energy for the day, both at work and on arrival home, to deal with my two small children. The reason is simple: cycling has dramatically improved my all-round fitness and muscle tone.

I would not have predicted it.

Last spring, although reasonably lean, I was very unfit. I took no regular exercise. When fitness expert Joanna Hall assessed me and half a dozen Evening Standard colleagues, I was, embarrassingly, the least fit of the bunch, trailing well behind fellow journalists in their fifties. Her verdict: "Pull your socks up!"

Then an old back injury returned, brought on by lifting my young children.

An osteopath warned me: "I can fix this when it happens. But it's just going to keep happening unless you start taking some regular exercise." I didn't, of course.

The next time my back went, I tried physiotherapist Trish Formby. She pulled no punches: I had "very poor muscle tone" and bad posture, in addition to the back spasms and stiffness that I was combating with liberal quantities of ibuprofen. She prescribed a series of targeted exercises which we went through each week. They fixed my back, but her fitness message was familiar: unless I exercised properly, the back problems would come back before long.

When I finally began cycling, last June, I took to it immediately - and very quickly, I began to feel much fitter. The first sign was that I started doing the journey faster.

At the same time, I could tell that I was shedding fat, and felt I had more energy generally. …