It’s good for you!
In the lead up to our Beyond the Bicycle Conference, we are looking at some key issues and perspectives around inclusive cycling. This week we discuss the health benefits of inclusive cycling by hearing from two different voices, GP Andrew Boyd and cyclist/fundraiser Keighley Jensen. Our Beyond the Bicycle Conference is taking place on Tuesday 7th November at City Hall, in Central London. Learn more and book on here.
Keighley Jensen raised almost £1,000 for Wheels for Wellbeing last year and regularly attends our sessions in Croydon. She agreed to have a chat with us about she has benefited personally and how to get more disabled people cycling.
How did you get into cycling?
Cycling is one of the best exercises that I have and is now an essential part of my physio-regime. I have EDS and a non-cancerous type of tumour in my femur bone. The combination of both conditions has resulted in the damage of my hip bones. One of the issues with EDS is that we heal very badly; injuries that would heal on anyone else don’t really heal for us which limits options for treatment. The best treatment for many people with EDS is to strengthen the muscle around joints, making exercise absolutely vital. Building muscle in a safe, non-impact way can prevent you from entering a vicious cycle where your condition gets worse and worse.
Cycling is low-impact so rarely gives me ‘bad pain’ which affects my joints and therefore is the only exercise I can class as cardiovascular. The other advantage is that cycling is something me and my husband, a keen cyclist himself, can do together using the side by side bikes.
How often do you come to the sessions and how do you structure your time?
We aim for every other week! The sessions have been really valuable. There are so many types of bikes available I know there will always be a bike that I can use when I go. If I’m in a lot of pain, at the very worst I can stay in my wheelchair and attach to the front of a bike as my husband rides it.
How did you find out about Wheels for Wellbeing?
Completely by word of mouth, it was through somebody I worked with. His cycling group had mentioned someone they knew who was a disabled cyclist.
Do you think organisations such as Wheels for Wellbeing need to be made more aware of?
Yes, definitely. Given how regular my contact is with healthcare providers, I thought that somebody would have thought to mention it. I’ve sat with so many physiotherapists, puzzling over how I can do different exercises, looking at my joints and recognising what needs to move but not finding a safe way to exercising it. If they’d have known about WFW they’d have recommended it to me.
Why aren’t more disabled people trying cycling?
I think it is a problem that GPs and physiotherapists aren’t recommending it more, I can only speak for my own condition which is horribly under-diagnosed and people don’t know how to treat it. A lot of patients are told to stick to low-impact activity such as Pilates, or to try swimming which brings with it all kind of issues such as getting in and out and getting dressed. People are often deterred from cycling because my condition can cause balance problems which renders bikes dangerous. However, there are hundreds of bikes that will compensate for this and allow you to cycle normally.
What would you say to someone looking to become more active?
I wish someone had told me earlier that you don’t have to give up what you’re doing, you just have to do it in a different way. It took me a couple of years of dangerous inactivity before finding activities that I could do again and my condition would have not gotten as bad as it did if I had more preventative options earlier on.
Do you think that cycles should have the same recognition as a mobility scooter?
Absolutely! People need to be educated on how fast to go and how to behave if they are going to be cycling on pavements but equally, I know that some of the mobility scooters are incredibly fast and very bulky. I don’t really see the differences in supporting a disabled person to move around apart from the bike being the healthier option.
After talking with Keighley about her experience with the healthcare system, we wanted to reach out to doctor Andrew Boyd, GP, avid cyclist and panellist at the November Conference. Andrew also fundraised for Wheels for Wellbeing last year, raising almost £6,000 through his Transcontinental Race with his friend James! Watch this video to hear his perspective on inclusive cycling as a form of physical activity for disabled people and how he promotes it among his patients.