Bicycle your way to better health 

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Bicycle your way to better health 

If you’re trying to reduce your risk of chronic health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle, hop on your bicycle.  Riding a bicycle regularly is one of the best ways to reach better health while slashing your likelihood of developing health issues. From young children to older adults, this low-impact exercise can be enjoyed by people of all ages, allowing them to participate together.  There must be a reason why approximately one billion people around the world use a bicycle everyday – for transportation, recreation, sport, and it’s a cheap and fun source of entertainment while enjoying the outdoors.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve last rode a bicycle, that’s okay – remember, they say you never forget how to ride a bike.  And if you’re looking for a fun, adventurous way to improve your health, there’s no better time than now to get cycling.

Check out these health benefits bicycling provides:

·      Pedal pushing improves aerobic fitness and cardiovascular health

Your heart, brain, and blood vessels will shout out hip, hip, hooray when you choose bicycling as your main form of aerobic exercise.  The rhythmic pedaling pumps blood throughout the body while triggering the release of endorphins giving you a feel-good rush.  Mixing up the terrain you bicycle on – choosing hills over flat topography – will provide an extra aerobic workout once you are ready to tackle a more challenging landscape.

Cycling will also strengthen your heart muscle, lowers resting pulse rate and reduces blood fat levels. Research shows that people who cycle to work have two to three times less exposure to pollution than car commuters, improving their lung function.

·      Your joints will breathe a sigh of relief

Those with hip, knee or feet joint pain will find bicycling to be a breeze.  Sitting on a bike means you put your weight on the pair of bones in the pelvis called the ishial tuberosities, the same bones you use when you are sitting down.  When we stand up and walk, we put weight on our joints and for those with any form of joint pain or age-related stiffness this can mean the difference between being physically active or physically impaired. 

·      Builds stronger muscles and bones

All kinds of large muscle groups are getting a workout when we bicycle.  During the power phase of pedaling (the downstroke), the gluteus muscles in the buttocks, the quadriceps in the thighs, and the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calves are being called into action helping to stimulate muscle growth.  During the recovery phase (backstroke, upstroke, and overstroke) the hamstrings in the back of the thighs and the flexor muscles in the front of the hips are getting a very nice workout keeping them in tip top shape.

Other muscles benefitting from bicycling include the abdominal muscles as they tighten to maintain balance and keeping you upright and definition in the arms and shoulders will appear as they are being conditioned holding onto the handlebars and steering.

Even though bicycling is not considered a weight bearing exercise, our bones do benefit from the pushing of the pedals which pull on muscles and then the muscles pull on the bone, making them stronger.

·      Curbs obesity and achieves better weight control

Bicycling is a great way to increase your metabolic rate or the rate at which you burn calories, helping to achieve a healthier body weight. When combined with a healthy eating plan, cycling is perfect for reaching that goal. Research has shown that someone who bicycles steadily for an hour will burn around 300 calories.

·      Makes everyday activities easier

Riding a bicycle is a balancing act and when it is done regularly, the art of balancing oneself on a very small seat carries over into other areas of our life from better balance, walking, standing, endurance, and stair climbing.  When we can do these activities easily suddenly our lives become less complicated.

Always be safe

Riding a bicycle is an enjoyable activity but because you may be sharing the road with vehicles, you must practice safety.  First, if it’s been awhile since having a regular exercise routine, get the okay from your doctor particularly if you have heart disease, arthritis, or thinning bones.  If the risk of falling is a concern, there are adult tricycles providing more stability and posing less of a fall risk and can still give you a good aerobic workout.

Other safety considerations when riding a bicycle:

·      Helmets are a must to protect the head.

·      Don’t use clips to keep your feet on the pedals which could make a fall injury worse.

·      Don’t ride alone.

·      Stick to a bike path if possible.

·      If riding on a street or highway, wear noticeable, reflective clothing.  Always use hand signals when making turns and use a rearview mirror.  If riding at night, use blinking lights on your bicycle to be more noticeable.

·      Keep hydrated while riding and carry a small snack with you.

·      Wear sunscreen and sunglasses.