Easy Rider

It’s difficult to know what exercise is best for us. When we were young, we could do just about anything. But as we age, our joints begin to complain and finding the right type of exercise becomes difficult. We want to keep up strength, improve balance and help stabilize—or reduce—our weight. Importantly, we look forward to doing something we can do now and continue for the rest of our lives.

Bicycling meets all these goals. It is certainly aerobic enough to burn enough calories. At least it was for 18,000 post-menopausal women. A 16-year study of women (nurses) between the ages of 25 and 42 who started biking was very revealing. Overweight women riding 30 minutes per day gained seven pounds less than their sedentary peers. Normal-weight women who cycled four hours a week were more likely to gain less than five percent of their baseline body weight. In this study, the more the women weighed, the greater the weight loss benefits of bicycling.

It is also one of the most ideal exercises for men and women that are morbidly obese. Individuals in this category have to be careful about exercises that places added stress on the joints. Our bone and joint physicians greatly prefer bicycling for their patient’s with joint problems. It’s a great way to get the benefits of exercise without causing more problems to the hips and knees. Cycling also strengthens the major muscle groups in our lower body. This improves our balance, leading to less falls when walking. So far, so good.

The least expensive bike that fits works as well as those costing several thousand dollars. Wear anything that’s comfortable, spandex and jerseys are for the Lance Armstrong wannabes. The only exception is a helmet. Falls from a bike are as lethal to the brain as if you were on, or in, a motor vehicle. Also remember when riding in hot weather to stay hydrated. Be respectful and give the right-of-way to other riders and walkers.

For the most part that’s it. Grab some wheels and get rolling for fun and fitness.

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About Steve P. Sanders

A general internist writing and sharing ideas and art.

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