The amount of physical activity people are doing in the Waikato region may not have changed much between 2007 and 2013 – but try telling that to keen mountain biker, Luke Healey. He’s changed his approach to exercise in a big way over the last couple of years and he’s feeling a lot healthier and happier as a result.
In 2013, most people surveyed throughout the Waikato region said they exercise at least once per week for 30 minutes or more. That’s great news, because participation in sport and active leisure has positive health benefits for people’s physical fitness and mental wellbeing, as well as being a source of enjoyment and entertainment and contributing to community life, social wellbeing and safety overall. It also keeps down the costs of physical inactivity to our region’s economy, which can reach an estimated $106 million every year.
Luke was an active cyclist back in his school days, but like many of us he found that over time, work and family life took away his focus on keeping active. In 2012, he decided it was time to sort his health out and get regular exercise back into his life. “I chose mountain biking over road cycling, as it offers much more variety and exciting choices for riding, as well as being a really good physical workout. At the moment, it’s my main form of physical activity,” he says.
He was also keen to get off road, as mountain biking and riding cycle trails offered a safer, more enjoyable environment for his rides. “Like most New Zealand cities, our region’s road infrastructure poses a few challenges for cyclists,” he says. “However, it’s good to see that improvements are being made in some areas, and new road design is now catering for cycle traffic. Plus, of course we’ve now got an awesome variety of riding options off road here in the Waikato.
“In Hamilton, without leaving the city boundaries, we have the riverbank path, the Pukete Mountain Bike Trail and a huge variety of parks, paths and trails that suit all ages and abilities. For dedicated mountain bikers, we’ve got places such as Te Miro Mountain Bike Park, the Te Uku Wind Farm in Rotorua, the Waikato River Trails, the Hauraki Rail Trail, and trails on Pirongia. I’m also aware of several more new off-road trails under development in the region.”
As a lifetime asthmatic, Luke says he noticed a big improvement in his wellbeing and health once he got active again. “I ride fairly hard and push the limits of my ability and endurance, which provides a major boost for my self-esteem and confidence. Exercise is a great anti-depressant too!” As well as covering over 3000 kilometres through his mountain biking over the last two years or so, Luke’s also become involved with the Hamilton Mountain Bike Club. “The club has given me a new social outlet as well as a source of opportunities and motivation to keep active and keep riding – not to mention some awesome friends!”
Read other stories from people living in our region.