As a child, Heri Tungaraza cycled as part of play just like his age-mates at that time. His dad bought him his first bicycle. “It was a foldable one and unlike other bicycles at that time, the brakes of this one were initiated but with a reverse pedal. It was a bicycle from Holland,” 39-year-old Oncologist, Dr Tungaraza recalls.
In his teenage years, he rode occasionally to medical school when he bought himself a mountain bike but he didn’t ride for long.
He resumed cycling when he was in China doing his Masters. “When I was in China, that time the motivation was as part of a workout. And I have not stopped since then,” Dr Tungaraza tells Your Health.
Dr Tungaraza rarely uses cycling as a means of commute because of the many challenges.
“One of them is the lack of changing and shower rooms at work. The other is the bad traffic during peak hours. Since we don’t have cycling lanes in most parts of the city, it becomes dangerous and our motorists don’t respect us as yet,” he says.
However this past week, Dr Tungaraza took his bicycle with him to Morogoro and while there he did use it to go to work and run a few errands and go for dinner 4kms away. “So I mainly cycle for workouts in the morning hours when the traffic is at the minimum,” he says.
His childhood pastime of cycling has now become a habit
Dr Tungaraza mostly cycles with a bunch of cycling enthusiasts. “I have several cycling groups to sweat with over the weekend. I cycle at least once per week and a maximum of three times per week. During the weekend I get the maximum time,” he tells.
Being in the health field himself, Dr Tungaraza explains that the advantages of cycling are many.
The list is long but it does help one stay in shape, keep fit, improve cardiovascular system, lose weight when combined with a proper diet, improve flexibility and muscle strength, increase bone strength, reduce stress and also cycling has been associated with prevention of chronic diseases like heart diseases and cancer.
He adds, “Of course cycling to work or errands means less pollution and cheaper too.”
Which bicycle to opt for?
On suggesting which bicycle to go for, Dr Tungaraza says just like buying a car or anything for that matter one needs to look at his or her needs. There are different types of bicycles but there are two major groups i.e. Mountain bikes and road bikes.
The mountain bikes are those with big tyres and are meant for off-road and any other road. For someone buying a bike for the first time in Tanzania should opt for this.
So they are able to ride almost anywhere at a speed that is safe enough.
The road bikes are for those with need for speed or adrenaline junks. “The things to look for are size (size 26 is preferred), brands (there are many) and of course affordability. Currently in the market we get both new and second hand bikes mostly from Europe and Japan. I have both types to satisfy my thirst for variety,” he explains.
Cycling has improved Dr Tungaraza’s mental wellbeing, as he tells. “Possibly unknowingly, cycling allows me to feel free and wonder around mentally and physically. With the blood gushing to my brain, I am usually at peace and I feel good while on the saddle. Cycling has also enabled me go places that I had never been before here within Dar and that has helped me load my brain with beautiful moments and respect nature. Good nutrition for the brain indeed,” Dr Tungaraza explains.
The roads are not very safe and friendly for cyclists in Dar es Salaam. Most main roads don’t have cycling lanes. “The Morogoro road was well constructed, it does have bike lanes and that’s the real meaning of inclusiveness. In fact, if we want people to fight off diseases such as the non-communicable diseases, we should have more cycling lanes on our roads to encourage people to cycle more and hence be healthy,” Dr Tungaraza advises.
Currently morning hours remain the best times to ride and a few areas like University of Dar es Salaam and Masaki are ideal and safer to ride, Dr Tungaraza says. For those who own a mountain bike, there are a lot of trails or off-road routes.
Cycle away from the big C
Cycling does cut cancer risks Evidence has linked more specifically colon and breast cancer to cycling. If one cycles, the risks of getting these cancer goes down.
“With cycling your anticipated weight loss will also add value to reducing risk of getting other obesity related cancers,” he explains.