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ImageIt's time to cycle your way to good health. Forget fancy gym memberships, cycling is both a cool and a cost-effective way to achieve sporty fitness.

What's more, it's been a craze with celebs too. While Madonna has been a famous cyclist, Courteney Cox has spent 6,000 pounds on a bike for best friend Jennifer Aniston after Jen said she wanted to start cycling. And while we mere mortals might have to make do with a bog-standard pushbike, the body benefits are universal.

So, before you wave a final goodbye to the rains, it's time to dust off your old bicycle and hit the road right away.

Perfect fat-burner
If you want to drop a dress size, then cycling is one of the best ways you can do it. Biking provides a great overall workout, burning calories and reducing body fat. Plus, it can't be beaten when it comes to getting great thighs and a perfectly pert bottom.

Getting started
You don't have to spend a fortune on a top-of-the-range new bike. Chances are, the one you may have got tucked away at the back of your verandah is just fine.

Remember, if your feet fully touch the ground when you're in the saddle, the bike is either too small or the seat needs raising. Other safety essentials, (which most people do not adhere to) recommended are: a helmet, padlock, bicycle pump, plus lights and reflective gear if you plan to cycle at night.

Your biking plan
Begin with three 30-minute bike rides for the first week, building up to longer sessions each week. Start on flat terrain, then introduce a few hills to challenge yourself. By week three, you should aim for four 35-minute sessions. By week five and six, you should be aiming for four 45-minute bike sessions per week to really see a difference.
SIX more reasons to get on the saddle
1. Cycling keeps your knees and hips flexible. Plus, because you have to rise out of the saddle with any bumps on the road, it also strengthens your lower back and stomach muscles.
2. Regular aerobic exercise such as cycling has been shown to be more effective than some of the pills in beating mild depression, as it releases the 'feel good' chemicals in the brain.
3. Studies show that people who regularly cycle have the fitness level and body age of someone about 10 years younger.
4. Cycling is the perfect exercise if you're overweight because your body weight is carried by the bike, not you, so excess pounds don't put pressure on your joints.
5. As part of a healthy lifestyle, regular cycling can reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease by around 50 per cent.
6. Cycling is credit-crunch friendly as it requires no gym membership fees, and saves money on petrol or public transport. It's also pollution-free and better for the environment.