Most of us learned to ride a bicycle as a child. Certainly this is one form of exercise that is easy to learn and gives a great workout to the cardiovascular system. It also strengthens the leg muscles and abdominal muscles, all of which are needed for the balance required to ride the bike. Bike riding can help regain strength in the muscles and can also burn calories. It can also help reduce joint pain and increase flexibility. Cycling is also helpful for reducing stress. Being out of doors in the fresh air and sunshine always enhances health.
Cycling is an aerobic form of exercise, meaning it uses large muscle groups in the body and helps the heart and lungs work harder than they would at rest. The American Heart Association says even persons with heart failure may engage in some form of moderate exercises such as walking, swimming or biking under physician supervision. Because of the stress this exercise puts on the heart and respiratory system, it increases oxygen to all parts of the body.
There are special considerations when it comes to seniors. In an article by Live Strong, we are reminded that many seniors have impairments such as reduced sight and hearing. Their reaction times are slower. They may be prone to falls and sustain fractures due to brittle bones. Here are some safety tips that can help you have an enjoyable and safe bike ride.
Get your doctor’s permission first
Many seniors have not ridden their bikes in years and would definitely need physician clearance before engaging in any vigorous form of exercise such as biking. Your doctor can let you know of any limitations or modifications that need to be made.
Be sure your bicycle is in good condition
Check that there is enough air in the tires and also be sure to check the brakes. Have someone adjust the seat for you if necessary. Make sure the bike is sized for you so you are not straining or uncomfortable when riding it. Some seniors may wish to use a recumbent bike which will allow them to sit back and sit lower to the ground. According to Pioneer Thinking, the recumbent bike will still give you the benefit of the aerobic workout but with less stress on the knee joints. Regardless of the type of bike you use, wear a helmet. Bicycle accidents are not planned but they do happen, so be prepared.
Carry water with you
It is vital that you avoid dehydration. Drink sufficient water before you begin cycling. Carry a bottle of water with you so you can stop and drink at regular intervals. Remember that even though you might not be perspiring heavily as you ride your bike, your body still loses fluids. Ride in the morning before the heat of day when the temperature is cooler and you are less likely to become overheated.
Start with short cycling trips
As with any exercise regime, you need to gradually increase your exercise time. Plan to stop frequently to rest initially. If you are out of practice on the bike you may need to brush up on local cycling rules. According to Bicycling Info, the senior cyclist is still a vehicle operator and is subject to the same rules as if they were driving a car.
Keep it simple
If you have not been on a bike in years, start by riding on a fairly level terrain close to your home. Avoid riding in a high traffic area if possible. According to an article in Suite 101, try to find an area with a bike lane or a wide shoulder for safety and lessen your apprehension about being stuck by a car. Wear bright clothing so you can easily be seen, and always wear a helmet.
Avoid biking alone
Invite at least one other person to accompany you. This is good not only for socialization but also for safety reasons. In case you run into any problems, someone is near at hand to get help. If you develop any symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness or shortness of breath, stop cycling, find a place of safety to sit down and have your cycling partner call for help.
For Sciences: “5 benefits of strength training for seniors”
Bicycling Info: “Educating seniors”
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: “Aerobic exercises”
Pioneer Thinking: “The advantages of recumbent exercise bikes”