Passion for cycling from the heart

Sport BOP Recreation Advisor Michelle Barns, Hearty, the Heart Foundation mascot, and Travel Safe Coordinator for Tauranga City Council Cindi Feder.

One person every 90 minutes will die from heart disease in New Zealand – that's more than 6000 Kiwis each year. This alarming statistic is one that the Heart Foundation and Sport Bay of Plenty want to reduce this Bike Month.

The two not-for-profit organisations have teamed up for Go By Bike Day on Wednesday, February 14, to help encourage more people to ‘go by bike' to work or school in pursuit of better heart health.

Held each year as part of Sport Bay of Plenty's Bike Month calendar of events, Go By Bike Day sees a number of pit stops set up along major commute tracks between 7am and 9am from Papamoa to Katikati.

These pit stops will have free refreshments and spot prizes available to riders, including $100 vouchers from Avanti Plus Mount Maunganui to be won at each stop.

With this year's event coinciding with Valentine's Day, the theme is ‘Love Me, Love My Bike', which Sport Bay of Plenty Recreation Advisor Michelle Barns says was a perfect fit with the ethos of Go By Bike Day.

“Go By Bike Day is about encouraging people to give cycling a go as a way to commute to work, school or even just to get around for the day,” says Michelle. “Cycling is not only good for you, it's good for the environment, reduces traffic congestion and makes you feel good!”

And that's where the Heart Foundation comes in. The local branch will be holding a pit stop in Red Square with plenty of heart-themed items and information packs, as well as blood pressure and blood sugar checks on offer.

You can't miss them – they'll also have their giant mascot, Hearty, making an appearance.

The Heart Foundation pit stop joins the likes of Avanti Plus Mount Maunganui and Tauranga City Council's Travel Safe team, which works alongside the community to lift the level of road safety and active transport across all ages.

Heart Health Advocate for the Bay of Plenty, Francesca Rae, says the Heart Foundation's mission is to stop New Zealanders dying prematurely of heart disease and help those living with heart disease to live full and productive lives.

It's a sentiment shared with Sport Bay of Plenty, making their collaboration a perfect match.

“You don't have to be an athlete to get active,” says Francesca. “We just want people to get out and do some brisk exercise for 30 minutes a day.

“One aspect many people don't realise when it comes to heart health is that stress is a big factor. With stress, your heart rate goes up and after time it can lead to heart disease.

“When you are out on a bicycle and riding with chums, it releases all that stress. So with cycling you are exercising your heart, reducing stress and convening with nature – what more could you want?”

Michelle adds: “As we lead increasingly sedentary lives, this is a great excuse to hop on the bike and have a bit of fun.

“Plus, if you are taking part in the Aotearoa Bike Challenge, this is a great way to log those kilometres towards the workplace challenge.”

For a full list of pit stops, and more information about Go By Bike Day, visit: www.sportbop.co.nz/bike-month/

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