How bicycling helps keep your body healthy
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people around the world to stay home and practice social distancing, we might all be feeling a little bit cooped up and stressed out. For those of us who are well, bicycling can still be a way to de-stress and get necessary physical activity. So, over the next few days, Bicycle Colorado will be putting out a short series of articles on how bicycling is still a great way to keep ourselves happy and healthy. The information in these articles applies every day, but even more so in these weeks to come.
Today, we’re talking about how bicycling can help you maintain and improve your physical health.
Anyone who rides regularly has felt how bicycling changes your body—stronger legs, greater lung capacity, and growing endurance for longer rides. Bicycling is a low-impact activity. Movements are fluid and tend to be easy on the joints because your feet (or hands for hand-cyclists) generally stay in contact with your pedals the whole time and your weight is held by your seat. This translates to less pressure on your knees, hips and ankles than when running, for example. For hand-cyclists, it’s a low-impact, cyclical workout for your elbows, shoulders and wrists. This makes bicycling a great exercise activity that doesn’t demand too much of your body, especially for older adults, people with joint injuries or disabilities, and for gym-goers who want to switch it up on rest days. And, of course, it’s great as a casual exercise for everyone to break up your day.
Bicycling is also an aerobic exercise, during which you are repeatedly moving large muscle groups in parts of your body like your legs or arms, hips and core. When you bike, you might notice you breathe faster and more deeply. Not only are you working your muscles, but you’re getting in some cardio. During this form of exercise, you’re getting more oxygen into your system, and your body will release endorphins, which are hormones known for relieving pain and promoting a feeling of well-being.
There are many other ways bicycling is good for your body—for example, increased muscle strength, improved coordination and balance, strengthened bones and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as some other diseases.
Biking regularly helps children, too. Incorporating physical activity into daily routines can help children maintain healthy weights and help their bones and muscles grow. National guidelines encourage children to get 60 minutes of physical activity a day. In 2016, it was found that less than one-quarter (24%) of children 6 to 17 years of age actually get that amount. Fewer children are biking to school or to friends’ houses because they are driven in cars; streets and neighborhoods are sprawling and inaccessible; there’s an acute lack of safe infrastructure; and time spent in front of screens is only increasing. With many people staying home because of the COVID-19 outbreak, there’s more reason than ever to get kids out exercising. If you have a backyard, trail or a quiet street nearby, it’s a great opportunity to get them out riding their bikes.
Here at Bicycle Colorado, we encourage Coloradans (and anyone else!) to bike more during this coronavirus outbreak and get some important exercise and fresh air. Keeping your immune system healthy is important at this time, so bike solo or in very small groups of people whose histories you know well, and don’t push yourself too hard, since rest is important, too.
And, beyond riding for recreation, we hope you’ll ride for transportation! If you’ve got a bike with a basket, a rack and some panniers, or a trailer, now’s an excellent time to take it out to the grocery store if you need to pick up some essentials. With fewer people driving on the road, your ride should feel low stress and you can choose not to bring another motor vehicle onto the streets right now! If using a basket, we recommend bungee cords or something else you can use to strap your grocery bags down for secure riding.
Sustainable transportation and exercise all in one, what could be better than that!
Bicycling might not be top of mind right now, or maybe it is since you’re missing group rides and races. If you are healthy, though, there’s no reason not to take your bike for a casual spin to give your muscles a workout and distract yourself from what’s going on right now.
And, if you’re riding, be sure to send us a picture to tell us about it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.