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 over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.
Cycling is great exercise at any age. Just remember when you first start out your add is gonna hurt but in a week or so that should go away
Ass not add ( I hate auto correct)
Ass not add ( I hate auto correct)
Warning though. I took up cycling to lose weight, but became addicted. Lost 70lb and gained a great hobby/addiction and have since ridden around the mountains in Europe and the US. Made some good friends by joining a cycling club.
larry english says
the main thing is, have a bike that fits
if there is a steel tube up in your ‘junk’ – it’s too big ( the bike, not your junk)
if your knees hit your chin, it’s too small
the former is somewhat dangerous, the latter is uncomfortable and slow
they can be adjusted to some extent, mainly by moving the saddle (seat)
but at some point you may need a new bike
then after that you have to get the ‘right saddle’.
which can take a while.
it can be an iterative proces –or you might (10%) chance get lucky, no butt pain
I started riding regularly in my 50’s at almost 230 lbs (6’2″) and after spring and summer riding, and taking more time to watch what I ate, I was down to 185. I’ve been riding ever since – I’m now 66. This year, since COVID has limited my travel and I’m home all the time, I’ve ridden every day since March 10th. I believe I’m in much better shape than many of my peers, if not all.
Just get out there and go! Pretty soon you’ll be addicted.
Pete Andreas says
Started exercising in my late 20’s to help with losing weight, by, running daily, legs gave out when I hit my mid 50’s, tried cycling, and fell in love with the sport, wish I started earlier, still riding and I’m 74 and still ride 5 times a week. Hardest part about cycling is opening the front door, do it and you will be forever a kid at heart.
With cutoffs comes chafing. Should advise OP to spring for a pair of cycling shorts with chamois.
John Malone says
I started riding at 55 used my daughter’s cast off “mountain bike circa 1990” for first 4 years. Rode to work 8 miles one way, and found it relaxing. Finally bought a used road bike and increased my miles. I’m now 77 and ride 3 days a week and average between 100 and 140 miles. Keep the A1c about 5.6 with no meds. Never to old to start.
I’m over 70 now and I still ride and do Triathlons. I do a lot of solo rides to fit my schedule and the biggest fear I have is getting a flat tire and have to struggle to put the tire back on the rim. I used to be strong enough to roll the tire on to the rim by hand or use a tire lever. If I’m at home I have no problem changing tires because I’ll use a large metal lever but on the road these tools are too large to carry. There is a neat new tool on the market that is only about 5 inches long and 25 grams in weight. The tool fits in my jersey pocket or small saddle bag. This tool makes rolling the tire on to the rim very easy and I no longer have to be stressed out about getting stuck on the road. The tire tool is called the EZ-CLINCHER and can be purchased on line at ezclincher.com.
R. groves says
I would strongly recommend spending some time riding alone and developing your cycling skills before attempting to ride with others. First would be the ability to keep a constant, steady pace for some distance and the second would be the ability to hold a strait line. Most new cyclists don’t realize how unsteady they really are wobbling this way and that as they go down the road. If you do that while cycling around others things will not end well for all involved. A good way to practice is to find a quiet, strait road that has a white line bordering each side and try to stay on that line. You’ll be surprised how difficult that is at first, but gradually you can do it as your fine balance improves. That ability will keep everyone safe while riding in a group.
I cannot quantify my statement since I’m not a doctor or a DNA/genetic expert; but my mom had high cholesterol since she was in her 30’s, when she died at 88 her doctor said her heart and arteries were rocks with very little blood moving through her body. I asked the doc how long did he think this all started, he said probably around her early 40’s and it slowly built up. Well, ok, she was 88 so she did live past the average life expectancy. I, on the other hand have been cycling for 40 years, and prior to that running, I’m now 66 years old, I decided that since my mom died like that I should have complete heart and artery workup to see if I have any buildup. After every test you could take to look at this stuff the doc told me I had ZERO buildup! He said he could tell from the results that I had either been running or cycling for a long time with some sort of consistency; he also said my cardio system was about the same as an early 30-year-old person.
Ideally, I should have combined cycling with weight training, but I run a business, and time is limited, so I made a choice to stick with cycling and not do any weight training, however, weight training is essential for making strong bones, however in my case I’ve been blessed with very strong bones, and never broke any, even as I have had a hard crash at 63 years of age did nothing to my bones. When I retire next year I will be mixing in weight training, just so I can improve my muscle strength.
So if you were to ask me if cycling is good for someone 50 and over, or even under 50, I would have to answer with a resounding YES! So while I have had accidents riding my bikes, with pain as a result. I would not trade those accidents for anything!
I started out commuting to work at age 22 and then worked my way into touring. I rode from L.A. to Boston at age 65 and am still biking at age 80. I have an indoor spinner for winters. I am still at my high school graduation weight of 130 lbs.