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Health Benefits of Bicycling

-By Dr. Brett Qualls, PT, DPT, OCS

“Just like riding a bike!”  Bicycle riding is one of those skills that most of us learn as a child and can very easily pick right back up without much effort.  The bicycle will celebrate its 200th birthday in 2017.  It was developed in Germany in 1817, and was known originally as “the running machine”.  Not surprisingly, bikes have certainly come a long way since that time.  Going to a bike shop today is kind of like going to a car lot, they have options to fit every need and activity type!  Bike riding still has many functional applications, as well as health benefits.

Cardiovascular Health

Whether you are riding on the road or on a stationary bike, bike riding is an excellent exercise choice to improve or maintain cardiovascular (heart & lung) health.  Remember that the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week.  Spending some time on the old “running machine” is a great option to click off some of those minutes that you need to keep your heart healthy.  Bike riding is a great way to boost your metabolism and to elevate your heart rate. Cardiovascular exercise has many benefits,  including lowering your risk for heart disease and lowering your blood pressure.

Low Impact Exercise

Given the intensity of the workout that you can get on a bike, bike riding is extremely low impact.  It is estimated that you can burn nearly 400-600 calories in a traditional 45 minute spin class on your bike.  That is an incredible calorie burn in such a short time!  It is estimated that your knees endure four to eight times your body weight in impact forces with running.  To simplify that math: If you weigh 100 pounds, then your knees could face between 400 and 800 pounds of impact while running!  Your body does not have to endure the impact levels of running or walking to get the same kind of exercise benefits.  This also makes bicycle riding is an excellent choice for those with ankle, knee, hip, or spine problems.

Transportation at its Best!

Your two wheeled machine is also a great mode of transportation!  That guy can take you places that you would never go in your car.  That’s right folks, people have been using bicycles as a mode of transportation for 200 years.  Bicycle riding is one of the most environmentally friendly transportation methods, as there are zero emissions!  You don’t even have to pay for gas to get around when you are using pedal power.  Biking is a great way to get around town and to run a few errands, plus you get a little exercise on the side.  Another upside: parking is a breeze!

Biking Adventures!

Your bicycle really can take you places that you could not go in your car.  There are many great mountain bike trails in our area, including those at SARA Park.  The trails offer a variety of terrain for different experience levels.  You can be brave and tackle a tough trail or enjoy a slow paced ride around the Island.  Even riding around town, it is surprising how much your view changes compared to driving in your car.

Bike riding is a fun mode of transportation and a great form of exercise.  You can set your training intervals to focus on endurance training (long rides) or you can push yourself with doing sprint intervals.  There are also many mobile phone applications that can help you to refine your training for road or stationary bicycling.  The weather is great…get out and ride your bike.  Don’t forget to wear your helmet!

*Copyright Havasu Living Magazine

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