Posts Tagged ‘Heathrow’

Cycling and health

Friday, July 31st, 2020
M3 from Sheep Walk, Shepperton

Every weekday for the past few months I’ve been having breakfast, washing and then getting on my bike for some exercise, riding around ten miles. I take a camera with me and sometimes stop a few times to take pictures which does slow me down a little. I don’t have Lycra and the roads around here are in pretty poor condition, and I sometimes ride on some rough paths, so my progress isn’t that fast, and the rides generally take me 40-50 minutes – an overall speed of 15-12 mph. The pictures here were taken on my rides in the first week of July.

At the start I of these rides was very short of breath, and thankful that this part of South-West Middlesex is extremely flat – one reason for siting Heathrow here. Even now, 4 months after I was ill in March, hills are still a problem if I ride across the river into neighbouring Surrey, though I’m now having to stop and rest fewer times on the way up. But I can now ride up the slopes to cross the motorways or railways without much difficulty.

Cottage, Moor Lane, Yeoveney

At the start the empty roads (apart from the many potholes and cracks) were bliss, but I arrived home exhausted. Now traffic even on the relatively quiet roads I mainly ride is something of a pain but I’ve got fitter and while I’m a little tired when I get home I’m not on my last legs. Cycling has definitely improved my fitness, but I haven’t lost a single pound.

So while I’m pleased that the government is encouraging cycling, and I’m sure it will improve people’s fitness I don’t know that it will actually do much to reduce obesity. Nor am I sure that they are going about getting more people on their bikes in the right way with gimmicks like the repair vouchers and prescriptions. They need to divert much more of the money going into roads into making roads safer so more people feel able to ride on them. As well as providing separate cycle paths where possible this also needs special attention to the edges of roads, the roughly 2m in which cyclists normally ride and which currently are usually in even worse condition than the rest of the roads.

River Thames, Shepperton

It also needs the kind of changes currently being proposed to the Highway Code, which prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable on our roads, pedestrians, then cyclists and then the various other categories of road users. You can contribute to the consultation on this until 11.59pm on 27th October 2020.

I don’t think cycling has a great deal to offer in combating obesity. Cycling is such an efficient process that it uses relatively little energy, and isn’t a very good way to lose weight. Jogging would be better though I find it far too boring.

Lord Knyvett’s Schoolhouse, Stanwell

Obesity is now of course not to do with actually being obese but defined by the WHO for adults as having a BMI of 30 or greater. BMI is a useful but very crude measure, which only takes body mass and height into consideration.

I think I am as fit or fitter than my wife, but in terms of BMI I come out slightly overweight and she appears slightly underweight, a difference of around 9 or 10 in BMI. We eat more or less the same diet and roughly similar quantities. I think the difference in BMI is at least partly if not largely accounted for by the width of our frames. This is reflected in the width across the shoulders – mine being roughly 1.3 times wider., much greater than the 1.09 difference in our heights.

River Colne, Stanwell Moor

The BMI formula, BMI = weight(kg)/height(m)^2 seemed conceptually wrong to the Belgian scientist Quetelet, who first put it forward around 1840, as mass is essentially a three-dimensional property, and so we might expect it to correspond to the third power of height, but that doesn’t give sensible results. The square was adopted for fully grown adults and in order to give roughly acceptable results for the population as a whole, but Quetelet actually pointed out it should not be applied to individuals.

Seven years ago Professor L N Trefethen FRS, Professor of Numerical Analysis, University of Oxford, proposed a revised BMI to make a “better approximation to the actual sizes and shapes of healthy bodies” and it does cut down the difference between Linda and me slightly, bringing her just into the normal range. The differences it makes are rather small, but given the blind reliance we sometimes see on BMI important. Trefethen suggested using instead of the square the power 2.5 of height and points out that Quetelet had found that “during development the squares of the weight at different ages are as the fifth powers of the height” while suggesting the use of the square for fully grown adults. At the time it was certainly much easier to calculate a square, though now calculators and computers make fractional powers easy to use.

Duke of Northumberland’s River and Heathrow

It probably doesn’t matter if we regard BMI as a very rough measure, but does when it comes to setting out charts and and applying them to individuals. If your BMI is 26, you may actually be normal, while if it is 25 you could be overweight whatever the chart says, but it would be too inconvenient to give, for example, a BMI of 26 +/- 3 which would probably be rather more accurate a reflection. It would be more useful for individuals if we could find a more sophisticated formula that gave a clearer indication.

There is of course another equally simplistic but probably more reliable measure that can be applied to individuals to determine obesity. It’s called a tape measure. If you are a man with a waist of over 40 inches (102cm) then you are almost certainly obese.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Another ride

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020
Former pub – The Swan, Moor Lane, Staines

Rain began just as I walked out of the door to go on a cycle ride on Tuesday. I’d looked at the weather forecast a few minutes earlier and it had looked as if I might manage my ten miles of exercise before it started, but it had come earlier. I could ride in the rain, but as it was forecast to set in for several hours and get heavier I turned around and came back inside. Perhaps, I thought, it would be better to ride in the afternoon.

Signs used for target practice

It’s a while since I wrote about my cycle rides, perhaps because they are not very exciting. I’ve settled into a pattern, riding – weather and other commitments permitting – five days a week, Monday to Friday, along nine different routes in turn, all around ten miles. Saturdays I rest and Sundays usually walk with my wife for an hour or two. There is some overlap between the routes, with only a choice of two ways I leave home and relatively few ways to escape the immediate area, but the routes provide some variety.

Wraysbury River – a distributary of the Colne

Working out and riding these routes has taken me to a few parts of the local area I’ve never visited before, or at least not for many years. I’ve lived most of my life around here, and in my young days when not at school lived most of the time on a bike, either with friends or on my own. Things have of course changed a little since the 1950s, particularly around Heathrow and with the building of the M25, M3 and M4 in the area.

Wraysbury River, M25 and Wraysbury Reservoir

When I started riding for exercise back in March it was rather more like the old days so far as traffic was concerned, with few cars and lorries on most streets. Now traffic has returned to pre-virus levels and although most of my routes are mainly along minor roads, cycling has become rather less pleasant, though fortunately most of the routes involve some traffic-free sections. But if we want more people to take to bikes we need more and better cycle routes and a considerable driver education programme about safe passing distances.

Another ‘The Swan’ in Stanwell

I’m finding cycling ten miles has become less exhausting over the months, mainly I think because my breathing has improved. I still have a bit of a problem with hills, but last time I got up the only long hill on all these routes with only one stop to wait until I stopped gasping – and that quite close to the top. I’m no longer finding railway and motorway bridges – the main hills on most of my routes – so much of a challenge.

Duke of Northumberland’s River and Heathrow Perimeter road

The pictures with this post are all from a ride I made on 5th June, going north from Staines and a little along the south side of Heathrow before returning. Part of it is along one of the country lanes I often rode around 60 years ago, but is now a series of dead ends and short sections with some heavy traffic. It used to be a quiet route from Bedfont to Datchet and Windsor. In earlier years my father would ride along it before turning north through the orchards to the pleasant hamlet of Heathrow, now the site of Terminals 1,2 and 3.

Swans on nest, Longford River, Stanwell

Both rivers have been diverted for the airport, but here the Longford River (aka Queen’s or Cardinal’s River) still follows its original course, while the Duke of Northumberland’s River used to run around 600 metres to the north. Both are artificial streams cut to take water from the Colne, the Longford in 1638/39 to supply water to Bushy Park and Hampton Court and the Duke of Northumberland’s river around 1530 to provide a consistent power supply for the flour mill at Isleworth.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.