Hand-cycling provides similar health benefits to regular cycling subject to a few key differences between the major muscle groups being used. The benefits of cycling are well known thanks to its popularity as a sport and hobby.For most people, cycling is a safe and effective form of exercise. If you have any health concerns or an existing medical problem, see your GP before you start.
The benefits of hand-cycling can range from sporting, social, psychological and basic mobility. Whether you’re cycling to work, to school, to the shops or just for fun, the humble hand-cycle is an easy way to get more active.
Regular cycling can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It can also boost your mood and keep your weight under control.
Hand-cycling can provide greater opportunity to get out and about with friends and family and partake in a wider range of social activity. There are many wonderful places to cycle in cities and the countryside. Hand-cycling is an ideal way for your friends and families to explore their neighbourhood and beyond. It also gives you the opportunity to do this on more equal terms, rather than having the limits of disability dictate the activity, location, distance or level of assistance. Sustrans has free information packs about cycling in your region.
A less expected benefit of hand-cycling is perhaps the positive reactions of people you will meet whilst out and about. Should you wish to engage, you will find people (young and old and from all walks of life) happy to talk to you about the workings of your interesting hand-cycle and the possibilities a hand-cycle opens up – often with a refreshing shift from being viewed as having an impairment. More often than not these will be pleasant passing encounters, but every now and again it can also lead to new connections and opportunities for other social activity or for learning something new. There are also local cycling groups for all abilities which often offer social rides. There are many bikes available for people with disabilities. The two main providers of specialist bikes are Wheels for All and CTC.
Hand-cycles are great for fitness and everyday sports use, however if you want to unleash your competitive side or train more seriously it can be a great means to do so.
British Cycling and all ability cycling clubs offer disability sessions in some areas for any level of ability or commitment. For the more serious hand-cyclist, there are opportunities to undertake coaching and even para-cycling competition.
It is also possible to use a hand-cycle to partake or compete in para-triathlon and for the adrenaline junkie, there are even off-road all terrain hand-cycle activities and races.
As much as hand-cycling can benefit your physical health and fitness, it can also help improve and maintain your psychological wellbeing. A hand-cycle can open up the freedom to explore places not accessible via other means and can help you escape and forget the stresses and frustrations of the everyday. What better than the distraction of taking off on a cycle path to explore the local countryside or coast and maybe catch a surprising view, a sunset, or stop for a pub lunch on the way.
Hand-cycling can also be great for self-confidence and esteem, offering the opportunity to challenge yourself to go beyond your usual limits or explore somewhere new and engage with people in a different way. It can also afford a greater level of independence. Planning and completing a ride or taking off at a moment’s notice is really satisfying. A ride can also leave you feeling mentally and physically energised as well as promoting better quality rest and sleep which in turn can help with cognitive functioning and emotional wellbeing.
Hand-cycles can open up possibilities for mobility both your everyday environment and further afield. Depending on the type of hand-cycle you choose, and you may want to give some consideration to this prior to purchase, you can use it for anything from commuting to work, carrying home shopping, short-medium distance social rides to cycle touring and navigating more difficult terrain. Hand-cycles which attach to a wheelchair offer the greatest level of flexibility in this regard and can help avoid the need for transfers necessary in using some other means of getting around.
Hand-cycling can enable you to get to places quicker, and sometimes easier than with a car or other means of transport. A hand-cycle can also afford you the luxury of having to think a little less about navigating environmental obstacles, such as slopes, cambers and rough ground and the distance you can walk or push in a wheelchair.
Some types of hand-bike can even be carried on public transport such as trains or stowed on aircraft allowing you greater flexibility and freedom for travel when away from home. Do check regulations with the operator before you travel. Before you start cycling in traffic, check the Highway Code for up-to-date rules and regulations for cyclists.