Dick S writes, “I know I should get more exercise and lose weight. I tried jogging and it hurts and isn’t any fun. I’m an okay swimmer but it’s hard to make time to get to the pool. I’m embarrassed to go to the gym because I’m not in very good shape. Would riding a bike be good for me?
Coach Hughes: You bet! Cycling is the perfect activity for you! Here’s why.
For good health everyone should do aerobic exercise at least 2-1/2 hours a week according to the American College of Sports Medicine and up to five hours a week are better. Aerobic means continuous exercise when you’re breathing deeply but not hard — you can easily carry on a conversation. Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of many conditions, including obesity, heartdisease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer.
Cycling is a highly recommended form of aerobic exercise for many reasons.
Any bike will do. To get started the bike in your garage or from a thrift store is fine. Many cities have non-profit community-minded bike shops that well you a rehabilitated used bike at a reasonable price. Get a simple tune-up and safety check for the bike at a non-profit shop or bike store. REI has mechanics. There are 165 stores in 39 states.
No special clothes. You also don’t need any special clothes — a t-shirt and cutoffs are fine.
Wear a helmet. If you fall you’ll probably just get an owie but if you hit your head the injury could be very serious or even fatal. Every helmet sold meets government safety standards so an inexpensive one bought is fine. Don’t just get a helmet for your kids. Set a good example.
Good for beginners. Whatever your current fitness and weight, cycling is an easy way to be more active.
Fun. Riding a bike is a lot more fun than “exercising.” Because you’re having fun on your bike you’re more likely to stay motivated and keep riding.
Few skills required. Cycling is much simpler than many other sports.
Ride almost anywhere. You don’t need a pool, gym, soccer field, tennis court, etc.
Ride alone. You can ride when you want because you don’t need a partner to get on the bike.
Ride with others. Riding can be very social. Try to find other riders who ride at about the same speed. You should all be able to ride at a conversational pace.
Family. Kids love bikes! Go for a ride to a park and play or to get ice cream.
Low impact. Riding a bike is much easier on your knees and the rest of your body than walking and jogging as well as pickle ball, volley ball and other higher impact games.
Low to high intensity. Unlike other sports, you can exercise as easily or vigorously as you want. All you do is shift gears.
Lower risk of injury. Because cycling is low impact and doesn’t have to be high intensity, you’re less likely to get injured.
Part of a healthy lifestyle. Research finds that an active, fit but overweight person with a healthy diet is at lower risk of premature death than a skinny couch potato drinking beer. Cycling can help you get and stay active.
Lose weight. If you do want to, cycling can also help you lose weight. Here’s more info on how to lose weight cycling.
Easy to fit into a busy day. You don’t have to “work out.” If you ride 15 minutes to the store and 15 minutes home you’ll have 30 minutes of the recommended minimum 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week!
Great for recovery. Because it’s low impact and can be low intensity doctors often recommend cycling after a major surgery or illness.
Inexpensive and time efficient transportation. Cycling is much cheaper than driving and often faster because you don’t need to search for a parking place and then walk to your destination. You can ride to the front door.
Good for the environment. The only emission from cycling is your breath. The more people ride, the fewer roads and parking lots are needed.
What about cars? Here’s How to ride safely in traffic.
I’ve written these other columns for beginning cyclists:
- How can a beginning cyclist improve?
- How should a beginning cyclist train?
- What should a beginning cyclist eat and drink part 1?
- What should a beginning cyclist eat and drink part 2?
- 10 common cycling mistakes to avoid
For more information:
My eBook Healthy Cycling Past 50 teaches you what you need to do as you age into your 50s and beyond – using cycling and other exercises – to increase your longevity and improve your enjoyment of life! This article applies whether you are just taking up cycling and exercise or you’ve been a cyclist for years and intend never to stop.
This is the first in a four-part “Past 50” series by Coach John Hughes:
- Healthy Cycling Past 50 – what happens as we age and how to incorporate cycling and other exercise activities into our daily lives to stay healthy and active for many years.
- Off-Season Conditioning Past 50 – how to best work on your off-season conditioning given the physiological changes of aging.
- Healthy Nutrition Past 50 – what to eat and drink to support both a healthy lifestyle and continuing performance.
- Performance Cycling Past 50 – how to train to achieve more specific cycling goals given the physiological changes of aging.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.