Break our your bike for better health

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Break our your bike for better health

Everywhere across the U.S., a new found love of bicycling is taking over.  With thousands of miles of new bicycle lanes in cities across the nation, not only is riding a bike saving the planet but also boosting your health. An extremely effective workout, getting on a bike can turn you into a lean, fat-burning machine. 

Most of us can probably remember that defining childhood moment the first time we rode a bike without training wheels.  Learning how to balance ourselves on a narrow seat atop two thin wheels was both scary yet thrilling at the same time. Once we got the hang of it, it was easy. And like the old saying goes, once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget.

Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve straddled a bicycle.  Or maybe your bike sits collecting dust in a storage shed or garage, forgotten but still useable.  Now may be a good time to wheel it out, check it over and hop on.  Riding a bike is one of the most active ways to not only spend leisure time but can be a terrific workout.  A bike ride can be as challenging or as laid back as the path or road you choose.  Opt for a challenging terrain with lots of hills and valleys and you’ll be huffing and puffing in no time, burning calories and strengthening muscles. 

Getting started

If it has been awhile since riding a bike, the first step is to make sure your bike is a proper fit for your body.  A poor fit can cause all sorts of problems from developing neck, back or buttock pain making the ride very unenjoyable.  Seat height is another source of issues – if the seat is too low or high, it may stress the knees. 

The best way to ensure a proper, reliable fitting bike is to go to a professional bicycle shop and have them assess how well the frame height, seat, and handlebars suit you.  It’s amazing how a few minor adjustments can make bike riding much more comfortable while protecting you from potential poor-fitting bicycle health problems.

The health benefits of bicycling

Riding a bike can be a great workout depending on how vigorous and challenging you make it.  If you find yourself coasting quite a bit instead actually moving your legs, it defeats the purpose of getting yourself into better shape.  But when you take it up a notch and really work your legs and speed, it can be a very effective means of physical activity. 

Anyone who prefers to cycle in the comfort of their home or of a gym can use a stationary bike to get in their exercise requirements.  However it is considered a lighter workout than riding a bike outside since there is no wind resistance or challenging terrain.  To get the same results as riding a bike outdoors, a person will need to work a little harder if they use a stationary bike.

Here are some health benefits bicycling can provide:

·      Bicycling is a very effective cardiovascular workout. A person can get the same heart health benefits from cycling as they would from any other form of aerobic exercise – walking, jogging, or dancing.

·      Bike riding strengthens the thighs, hips and buttocks. 

·      A good bike workout should include climbing hills as this benefits the arms and upper body as a person stands to pedal.

·      Bicycling is far gentler on your joints and helps to preserve cartilage.  This is especially advantageous for anyone who suffers from muscle strain, foot or ankle problems, knee troubles, back pain or impact-related injuries caused by jogging, running, or walking.

·      For people who are overweight and looking to start an exercise program, bicycling is good to try as it is easier on joints that may be strained by walking.

·      Daily routine biking can help fight weight gain and waistline expansion or belly fat

·      Riding a bike can be incorporated into daily life such as going to and from work or to run errands.

·      Bicycle riding helps reduce stress – it makes you feel like a kid again offering fun and freedom when you hop on a bike.

Staying safe

Cities across the U.S. are becoming more bicycle friendly by adding in bike lanes alongside cars and trucks.  Even though bicycle riding is both fun and healthy and it’s good to see cities encouraging this activity, because we share the road with motorized vehicles, you have to take certain precautions to make sure your bike rides are as safe as possible. 

According to Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Statistics, in 2015, 818 people lost their lives in a bicycle/motor vehicle crash.  This is more than two people each day of the year in the U.S. who lose their life while riding a bicycle. Since 2006, this is a 6 percent increase in bicyclist fatalities and a 12.2 percent increase from the previous year. Even though the number of estimated bicyclist injuries dropped to 45,000 in 2015 which is down from 50,000 in 2014, only a fraction of bicycle crashes causing injury are reported by police.

So, before take your bike out for a spin, make sure to follow these safety tips:

·      Always wear a helmet on every ride.  Hear injuries are responsible for about 85 percent of biking-related deaths.

·      Make sure others can see you by being visible.  Wear bright clothing when riding and travel during the day when possible.  If riding a bike at night, wear reflective clothing and use bicycle headlights and rear lights.

·      Avoid early morning and late afternoon rush hours.  Also it is recommended to avoid riding a bike in inclement weather as it can lower visibility and negatively affect the handling of the bike.

·      Always obey traffic rules.  Bicyclists must follow the same road rules as other vehicles.  Ride in the direction of the flow of traffic, use hand signals before turning, obey light signals and to other drivers.

·      Wear proper shoes that cover your feet – no sandals. 

·      Always carry a cell phone to call for help if needed.

·      Avoid riding on sidewalks – many cities have ordinances not allowing this anyway.

·      Never ride when intoxicated.