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LIVING WITH COVID: Exit binge-watching, enter long bicycle rides

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Srinagar: When Aadil Malik, a fitness freak and travel buff, felt himself grappling with social distancing measures, he grew restless and insomnia crept in.

Hailing from the Bemina the locality of Srinagar, the 26-year-old civil engineer decided to break away from the monotonous routine and began cycling, which came as a major respite.

“It’s therapeutic. Maybe that’s the bottom line. I have reached the end of the internet and binge-watching by now. I want to go out and the fact, cycling helps me enjoy the fresh air,” he said.

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Similarly, 33-year-old Shahid Bhat, an IT professional who lives in Harwan said the pandemic has helped many like him to rediscover the joys of cycling.

“I had a cycle that remained unused for a decade. During the lockdown, I started using it to get around my neighbourhood to buy essentials. It was such a great experience to cycle down the Foreshore road and connect with nature,” he said.

These are not isolated cases. People are rediscovering a passion for cycling to overcome stress and anxiety.
Dr Irtifa Kanth, a resident doctor at SMHS hospital, has found cycling as a means of relaxation both physically and mentally. Every day he cycles about 25 to 30 km.

“Cycling being a good physical exercise will give all the benefits of aerobic workout like decreasing body fat, increasing metabolism, muscle and bone fitness, postural regulation, etc,” he said.

The pandemic is also driving a boom in fat bikes (an off-road bicycle with oversized tires, designed for low ground pressure to allow riding on soft, unstable terrain, such as snow, sand, bogs, and mud) and electric-assist bikes called e-bikes. Most e-bikes require a cyclist to pedal, but electric motors provide extra oomph.
President Doctors Association of Kashmir (DAK), Dr Suhail Naik said a wide-ranging concern of pandemic is the change in lifestyles that will give rise to health challenges.

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“Due to lack of physical activity, many people would add undesirable pounds to their bodies. Some pre-diabetics may turn diabetic and some people may become hypertensive. In such a situation, cycling will ensure multiple benefits for health and fitness,” he said.

Dr Suhail noted that importantly cycling is also a joint-safe exercise in that it doesn’t put any weight on the joints. “People must, therefore, consider giving up cars and embracing the cycle to fulfil their daily needs, which will also cut down their travel expenses,” he said.

He pointed out that one positive that could be also drawn out of the COVID 19 pandemic, is the environmental clean-up resulting from the lockdown. “No better way to gain those benefits than cycling,” he said.