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The health benefits of cycling

Senior Wellness | Oct 09, 2015

Exercise is something plenty of people want to do, but often times, have no idea where to start. With so many options available and workouts to complete, exercise can become more of a hassle than the health benefits it provides. Hesitation can also come about due to confusion over what type of clothing, gear and equipment needed.

When it comes to fitness, and specifically, low impact exercises, seniors have to find the right routine that will make them healthier yet not harm their bodies. It is well known that as we age, our bodies aren't the same as when we were younger. This means some exercises may cause more soreness, pain or worse, serious injury.

Cycling offers a wide variety of workouts that requires minimal equipment.

Benefits of biking
According to Men's Fitness, biking doesn't harm your feet, ankles or legs as much as running. With biking, while you may be sore after a workout, it gets your legs moving and your heart pumping.

"Biking strengthens areas of the lower body, such as thighs and hips."

For seniors, this means they won't have to worry about injuring sensitive joints, particularly if they've had a recent injury. Biking strengthens areas of the lower body, such as thighs and hips. According to Healthy Women, biking can also help you target your arms and upper body if your route includes hills.

Biking is also beneficial because it is a legitimate form of transportation. Instead of driving to the grocery store for a gallon of milk, you can bike there. Not only are you taking care of an errand, but you're also getting exercise. Any form of movement for seniors is beneficial to their health. If you do decide to start biking more, keep in mind that you'll still have to follow the same rules of the road as drivers. This means stay in your lane, signal any turns, stop at lights and stop signs and generally always be aware of your surroundings. You'll also want to be safe and wear a helmet.

Mental benefits
In an interview with Bicycling, neuroscientist Brian Christie said exercise has a profound impact within an individual's brain, as he likened workouts to creating "fertilizer" for the brain. The Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research conducted a study and found that after 30 minutes of cycling, individuals achieved high scores on memory tests, planning and reasoning.

In some ways, cycling will help seniors protect their brains as they age. Again, our bodies change as we get older, and the brain is also affected with each passing year. Arthur Kramer, a neuroscientist, also told Bicycling that after biking for three months, individuals have the brain volume of someone three years younger.

"Cycling will help seniors protect their brains as they age."

With the right workouts, not only will your muscles benefit, but so to will your mental health.

How to start
Before going out to purchase a bike, consult with your doctor to discuss exercise and what, if any limitations, you may have when starting out. Biking is unique because you can choose from a variety of bikes to use outdoors. Getting the right size bike is also important because riding a bike that isn't the right fit can lead to nagging injuries. Visit a dedicated bike shop to find the perfect match. An experienced cycling professional will also be able to help pick the right style of bike for you and make sure it's the right size.

On the other hand, many local gyms have stationary bike machines you can use for harder workouts and are typically offered in group settings. Known as spin classes, these are great ways to get your weekly exercise, push your body and exercise in a group setting.

Biking is a great form of exercise for seniors. It's low impact and you can cycle in a gym or on the roads and enjoy beautiful scenery. Either way, your body and mental health will benefit from all of the peddling.