Get fit, save money, turn the clock back 10 years - what's the secret?

With many women spending vast amounts of money trying to lose weight, it seems we are still rejecting the cheapest, most efficient way of reaching target weight and shaping up - cycling.

Research from sustainable transport charity Sustrans shows that in spite of high profile women such as Duffy, Hannah Montana and Madonna taking to two wheels - the majority of women, 79%, are coming up with a variety of reasons why cycling's not for them, with less that one in ten women cycling more than once a month. Something that Sustrans is keen to change.

Concerns for safety rank high amongst women's reasons but, ironically, so does a lack of fitness and motivation.

Age is also a factor with 17 per cent of women considering themselves too old to cycle, this compares dramatically to the Netherlands where women over 65 ride three times the distance of 19 year old British men.

The research, commissioned from BMRB, shows that whilst women aged 35-44 are the most likely to cycle, (and are cycling 50% more than many women half their age in the 15-24 age group), even 69 percent of this age group never cycle despite 68% of them having access to a bike. Women in the South West of England and Wales are most likely to cycle (with the weather and hills not putting them off). While women are cycling the least in Scotland and the North West (where one in five women thought they were too old to cycle).

Melissa Henry, Sustrans' Communications Director, underlines the reasons for the campaign: "Getting on a bike brings many benefits. Cycling raises your metabolic rate, helping the weight to stay off; it costs a fraction of keeping a car or even a gym membership; and regular cyclists are as fit as an average person ten years younger."

Many men are already feeling the benefit cycling much more than women, with around eight per cent travelling by bike every day.

This year Sustrans would like to help women redress the cycling gender imbalance with activities designed to get more women on their bikes.

A new website went live on Wednesday 11 March with information on getting cycling, what to wear, where to go and how to do it. Cycling celebrities including Dawn Porter and Alice Roberts are lending their support, and a specially recruited women's panel who range from non to fair-weather cyclists will share ideas and experiences, try out bike training, and "road test" cycling products such as lights, bags and clothing. Sustrans will also be organising female-friendly cycle rides in the summer using traffic-free sections of the National Cycle Network.

Later in the year Sustrans will use the thoughts and concerns of women, gathered throughout the year, to inform its approach to UK governments with proposals on how to help more women get out and about on bikes, to the benefit of their health, the environment and, ultimately, our economy.

Source: Sustrans