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I practice what I preach – which is why I’m cycling across the USA

More people die of lack of exercise than of smoking, obesity and diabetes combined, Dr Patrick Milroy writes – so his cycle tour of America should be a good ice-breaker when discussing the importance of a healthy lifestyle

If you have already cycled twice for charity from Land's End to John O' Groats what, if anything, do you do for an encore? 

This was the conundrum that faced my friend Peter Holland and I. We decided that we would really like to ride across America but there were several obstacles in the way. 

The years passed as we mulled it over between ourselves and the cycling club we had formed after our UK tour.

Eventually in January last year Peter's wife Chris gave in and said, ‘Why don't you boys just get on and do it!' 

On our previous rides we had raised money for both cancer and heart charities but this time were persuaded through local contacts to raise money for powered wheelchairs for local disabled children, each of which costs around £3,000 to personalise.

Since making the decision we have pored over route maps, talked to numerous people about the terrain and discussed the feasibility of the enterprise. We have drawn up endless lists of supplies, of bicycle spares and parts and a medical bag in preparation for the worst. The cost of insurance was halved by buying it before our 65th birthdays.

We hope to send back a daily blog, which can be found on the website – that will record whether we end up in Boston on 12th May or thereabouts.  With luck the local Cheshire wheelchair charities will benefit and the lives of many disabled children will be enhanced by our efforts.

My partners in the practice have been very amenable in letting me go - not that I gave them much choice, I suppose. The patients have become involved as they did with our previous rides and, whilst their attitude to my exercise has veered between the eccentric to totally barking, they are particularly supportive.

I returned from the 2011 conference of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine with the news that more people die of lack of exercise than of smoking, obesity and diabetes combined. 

I have tried to break it to patients gently, but usually receive the look that says, ‘Oh, he's gone off on another one'! It undoubtedly helps my practice that I attempt to practise what I preach by exercising, but probably drive the unconverted to my partners to receive the sort of wisdom they wish to hear…

Dr Patrick Milroy is a GP in Warrington, Cheshire. His blog will be online at www.wheels-4-wheels.com.

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