Improving Your Health With Cycling

by Wellness Editor – MH

When it comes to endurance tests, it doesn’t get much more challenging than the Tour de France. The 2013 Tour de France, which kicked off on June 29th and marked the one hundredth time the competition has been held, certainly upheld this reputation. In total, each daily stage required the cyclists to traverse an average of 162 kilometers, or about 100 miles per day. To make the competition even more challenging, there were only two “rest days” (July 8th and 15th) during the entire 23-day race.

Of course, you don’t have to subject yourself to the grueling demands of the Tour de France to reap the benefits of cycling. While you might have stopped riding a bike sometime during middle school, here are some reasons why you might want to consider resuming this immensely healthy hobby (fortunately, you never forget how to ride a bike!):

Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease – “Cardiovascular disease” is sort of an umbrella term, encompassing numerous conditions that adversely impact the heart organ. Some of the most serious consequences of cardiovascular disease include heart attack, stroke and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Fortunately, cycling is a cardiovascular exercise, meaning that it bolsters the heart muscle and its supplementary parts. Riding a bike helps to lower your resting pulse, or the frequency of your heart rate while your body is at rest. Elevated resting pulses have been linked to a high risk of cardiovascular disease and even premature death. This activity also reduces the amount of harmful cholesterol in the bloodstream, thereby preventing plaque buildup in the heart’s arteries. The lungs, the main cog in the respiratory system, are also significantly strengthened by cycling.

Another Way to Shed Pounds – America’s struggle with its waistline get plenty of attention, especially considering the large number of US adults who are overweight or obese (a figure approaching 70 percent). This is where cycling be particularly useful. Powering a bike requires a lot of effort on behalf of your legs and lower body, causing your body to expend a large amount of calories. Riding a bicycle at a leisurely pace (less than 10 miles per hour) for 60 minutes should burn off at least 240 calories (this figure increases with bodyweight).

A Weapon Against Diabetes – Over the last several decades, millions of Americans have become painfully familiar with diabetes, a disease that cripples the body’s ability to regulate its blood sugar levels. Consider these facts; in 1980, only 5.6 million Americans were confirmed diabetics. In 2011, this figure had ballooned to nearly 21 million people.

The development of diabetes can be usually attributed to two culprits – poor diet and lack of exercise. While riding a bike obviously won’t have any impact on your diet, it can definitely address the latter problem. According to one Finnish study, allotting 30 minutes daily to cycling lowered the participants’ risk of diabetes by 40 percent.

A Possible Cancer Fighter? – It is estimated that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will contract cancer during their lifetime. And while cancer survival rates have improved in the last half-century, in 2010 cancer was still the second-leading killer in the United States (The leading killer? Heart disease). To make matters even worse, cancer can seemingly strike almost anywhere, often taking root in the body’s vital organs.

Given the widespread and frequently deadly nature of cancer, it’s quite understandable that medical science has devoted countless hours looking for a cure. While cancer is still an opponent that can’t be fully vanquished, studies have uncovered a number of ways to possibly prevent this disease. Surprising as it might sound, some research has found a correlation between cycling and a reduced incidence of bowel and breast cancer.

Putting You In a Better Mood – Exercise of all types has long been linked to an improved overall mood, and cycling is no exception. Riding a bike on a regular basis may help alleviate feelings of depression, stress and anxiety.

Safety Tips

Cycling is both an enjoyable and healthy activity, but a bike ride can go sour in a hurry if you don’t follow proper safety procedures. Before heading out on your next bike ride, make sure to familiarize yourself with the following tips.

  • You may think you have outgrown the need to wear a helmet while cycling, but rest assured that concussions, skull fractures and other forms of head trauma can strike those of all ages. Bike helmets are an inexpensive way to guard yourself against potentially fatal injuries.
  • As any avid cyclist can tell you, bike riders have to share the road with automobiles. One obvious way to make this arrangement better for all involved is to wear bright clothing, which allows drivers to spot you quickly and respond accordingly. If you can’t find time for a ride during the day, remember to wear reflective clothing and attach headlights and rear lights to your bike.
  • The phrase “timing is everything” can certainly be applied to cycling. During the week, the streets of towns and cities of are clogged with traffic during the early morning hours (from people going to work) and late afternoon (from the same people headed home). If your schedule allows for it, position your bike ride around rush hour traffic.
  • The rules of the road apply to both drivers and cyclists alike. For bike riders, this means using the proper hand signals when turning, staying on the far right side of the road and adhering to all traffic lights and signs. When riding with one or more friends, make sure to ride in a single file formation.

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