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Pedaling your way to better health

Now that spring is finally here, I'm looking forward to pedaling my bike down the lane near my home or on a trail up north and feeling the warmth of the sun on my back while the wind cools me off. The low burn in my muscles and increased breathing rate remind me that in addition to enjoying the outdoors, I'm getting a workout. The health benefits of cycling are numerous and apply to people of all abilities and ages.  

Bike riding is a great way to gain the many benefits of exercise without a lot of stress and injury to your body. It is well-known that regular aerobic exercise improves heart health, reduces the chances of heart disease and stroke, and improves mood and brain function. Cycling is a great aerobic option and helps improve muscle strength and endurance. It is easier on your joints than running or walking since there is less impact on your hips, knees, ankles and feet. This is especially helpful for those who are newer to exercise, have arthritis or painful joints, or are overweight.  

Pedaling a bike allows you to use the major muscles in your thighs, buttocks and calves. By strengthening these muscles, you will find other functional activities, such as climbing the stairs, are easier. In addition, during biking, your core muscles work to support your trunk in an upright position. Depending on how upright your position is on your bike, your arms are working, too.  

Cycling can be enjoyed on many different levels, from an intense workout to a mode of transportation to a fun outing. Going for bike rides together is an enjoyable social activity for friends and families of all ages, plus it's a great habit to be in as part of a healthy, active lifestyle. And biking instead of driving a car is environmentally friendly.  

There are many different types of bikes for many different types of bodies and abilities: 

  • Road bikes allow for long-distance cycling on paved surfaces with increased speed that requires less effort. But these bikes may not be comfortable for everyone as your trunk is in a more rounded position and more weight is placed on your arms.
  • Mountain bikes allow the rider to sit a little more upright and have heavy tread on the tires for riding on various terrains.
  • Hybrid bikes are a cross between road and mountain bikes; they are not as fast as a road bike and not as ideal for very rough terrain like a mountain bike, but they are light weight.
  • Cruiser bikes are intended for casual riding and have a more comfortable upright riding position with a larger seat.
  • For those who desire even more comfort and support, recumbent bikes that feature a full-sized seat and a backrest are available in either two- or three-wheel models. These are low to the ground, which can make them more difficult to pedal uphill and to transport.
  • Other options are adult trikes and adapted bikes for those who need more stability but still want to ride.

Whether you bike ride for fun, exercise, transportation or as a social outing, I hope you find your reason to get out there on a bike ride soon!

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