A photograph of Natalie Wright. She wears a white bike helmet and is holding up her e-bike.

Northumberland resident celebrates long covid recovery three years since the first UK lockdown

Watch Natalie's story here.

Today (23rd March) marks the third anniversary of the first national lockdown caused by Covid-19.

A Northumberland resident shares the transformative impact her e-bike has had on her Long Covid recovery with the aim to encourage everyone to consider the physical and mental health benefits of cycling or walking. Natalie Wright, 51, lives in Cramlington and works as a support officer at Northumberland County Council. Before contracting Covid-19, Natalie was fit and active, however, following a debilitating experience that led her into critical care in autumn 2021, she had to learn to walk again after losing 30-50 percent of her muscle strength.

After a long and challenging 15-month recovery period, Natalie has now regained her strength and fitness. Last year, she purchased an e-bike via the County Council’s employee cycle scheme and found the bike to be imperative to her recovery.

Miss Wright said: “Getting an e-bike has made a huge difference to my life. Long Covid took away my independence but over the past year and a half I’ve been working to reclaim it. On a mountain bike I could ride two or three miles and have to take three days to recover whereas on my e-bike during my recovery I could ride up to eight miles during the week, and up to 15 on a weekend. I recovered a lot quicker meaning I could cycle more often and build-up my strength.

“I’ll never forget the freedom it gave me on my first ride. It was fantastic and I instantly loved it. I’m a keen photographer and my e-bike allows me to explore my local area and enjoy my passion once again.

“While cycling has helped immensely to rebuild my muscular strength and overall fitness, the most positive impact has been on my mental health. You can’t underestimate how much it means to get outside, be active and take time to be mindful.

“If I was able to do this then I hope to inspire others to give it a go. I truly believe anyone, no matter the last time they cycled, their age or ability can benefit from giving cycling a go.

“Cycling wasn’t just for my recovery, I now see the positive impact it has had on my everyday life. Going forwards I’ll not only feel stronger, physically and mentally, but do my bit for the environment and county I love.”

Natalie is part of the County Council’s ‘The Big Northumberland Gear Change’ campaign that encourages all residents to try and leave the car at home and get out and explore the local area on foot or by bike as often as possible.

Councillor John Riddle, Cabinet Member for Local Services said: “As the country marks the third Covid lockdown anniversary, Natalie’s incredible recovery journey shows the power cycling can have on your overall fitness and wellbeing.

“We have such a beautiful county that can be explored by foot or if you do enjoy cycling there are some fantastic routes right on your doorstep.
“We aren’t asking people to completely ditch their cars. It’s about small changes that may one day become more long-lasting. Things like walking or cycling to your local shop rather than taking the car can make a massive difference to your health and the environment.”

A third of all trips made in Northumberland are less than 5km which equates to a gentle cycle or walk. This simple switch will improve physical and mental health and in turn help the environment by reducing carbon emissions, helping to achieve Northumberland County Council’s net zero target by 2030.

Rachael Bateman, principal transport manager at Northumberland County Council explained: “This campaign is not about running a marathon or signing up to a competitive sport but rather about the small changes we can all make to support our wellbeing and the environment at the same time.

“Natalie has shown us all how important it is to find what works best for you in order to make a small change into a positive habit. Whether that’s trying out an e-bike, a scooter or even a skateboard. Hopefully residents in Northumberland will be inspired by her recovery and think about swapping the car for the bike once in a while.”

Watch Natalie's story here.

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