When done properly, cycling is an effective and enjoyable form of aerobic exercise. Cycling can reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes according to a report by Kelley GA. Effects of aerobic exercise in normotensive adults, 1995. It can reduce your ‘real age’, lowering it more than a decade lower than your chronological age.
The indirect health benefits include reducing serious injuries caused by falls in older people, osteoporosis, and hip fractures.
Statistics show that cyclists, even those who only travel short distances can reduce the risk of death by 22 per cent.
Optimum results are achieved when cyclists are breathing heavily, but are not out of breath. Exercise has been shown to increase HDL (“good” cholesterol) and reduce the amount of triglycerides in the blood. Again, this means improved cardiovascular health. This leads to a reduced chance of heart blockage and reduces the risk of stroke. There are some reports that link exercise to a lowered risk of developing some cancer, like colon cancer.
Cycling burns the calories in a chocolate bar or a couple of alcoholic drinks in one hour, 300 calories.
Translated into modern lifestyle terms, a fifteen minute bike ride, five times a week, burns off 11 pounds of fat a year and meets the requirements for reducing heath risks.
There is a trick to exercising. Running a nine minute mile burns 11 calories a minute. Walking at 18 minutes per mile burns five. Faster exercise burns more calories.
Exercise continues to burn fat after the workout ends. Once the sweating stops the body’s metabolisms remains high. You can you increase the post exercise burn?
A few scientific studies suggest that exercising for 20 minutes at 35 to 55% of aerobic capacity, as in riding briskly, elevated metabolism for 20 minutes after stopping. That means that a 20 minute, brisk bike ride burns fat for 40 minutes.
Cycling has been proven to reduce stress and depression and relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
The Department of Transport reports that ‘even a small amount of cycling can lead to significant gains in fitness’. The study reveals that aerobic fitness was boosted by 11 per cent after six weeks of cycling ‘short distances’ four times a week and cycling four miles a day the aerobic benefit increased to 17 per cent.
The Fentem PH. ABC of sports medicine report, Benefits of exercise in health and disease, 1994 concludes that cycling is ‘one of the few physical activities which can be undertaken by the majority of the population as part of a daily routine’.
Choice of bike is a personal thing.
Most people never cycle more than five miles, so choosing an expensive bike designed to challenge the most adventurous dare devils. Instead, choose a bike that will manage the local terrain, comfortably.
Equipment needs will also vary. Older people should consider elbow and knee guards. These will help prevent debilitating joint injuries that can seriously limit your mobility. A helmet is not optional.
Do not buy a helmet from a local hardware store. Get one from a bicycle specialty store. The selection is larger, and the quality better. Shopping at an online store can also save money.
Once introduced into the bicycle riding community, you’ll soon set out on your daily cycle for the joy of it. Health benefits will be secondary.
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