I am not a sporty person. Anyone that gets to know me has learned that I don’t play softball, soccer, or tennis. I loathe going to the gym. Exercise for me has always consisted of walking and running. I may pick up an exercise class here or there, but always move straight to the back row. So, it was odd when a good friend and fellow chiropractor invited me on a BIKE RIDE.
ME? I haven’t ridden a bike since high school, and I’m not about to tell you how long ago that was. In my mind I ran through my usual excuses to politely to bow out; work, conflicting social event, having no bike. She immediately picked an afternoon she knew
Well, this eliminated any excuse I could possibly come up with so I had to agree or look like a wimp. As the day approached I became more and more apprehensive about riding a bike. Would I fall off? Would she laugh at me if I couldn’t ride? Would I be safe without having a cool expensive bike helmet?
The trail was long and flat. The old saying is true, once you learn to ride a bike you never forget. Sure the gear shifters had changed since I last rode a ten speed, but were relatively easy to figure out. She said we could turn around when I was tired and stop at any point for a water break. We rode for a few miles and surprisingly I wasn’t tired. Even stranger, I was enjoying myself. We rode, chatted, laughed, and soon we had ridden all the way from Springfield to Willard. I couldn’t believe that I had not only ridden a bike, but had ridden it to another town. We rode 12 miles in a little over and hour. I didn’t fall, didn’t have a bike helmet, and didn’t die. Most importantly I had fun! I loved riding! Sure I was a little sore after, but nothing a little stretching and a hot bath couldn’t fix. Within a week I had convinced my husband that we needed to ride together. We went to the bike shop and bought our first “grown up” bikes.
I encourage anyone that wants to get healthier and get moving to try cycling. It is a fantastic way to get out in nature, breathe fresh air, exercise and just MOVE. The benefits of riding a bike could go on forever, but I will start with my favorite five:
1. CYCLYING IS A CALORIE BUSTER.
Biking burns more calories than most other forms of exercise. On average, biking at a moderate pace burns 400-600 calories an hour. By comparison, walking burns 150-250 calories per hour and jogging burns 350-450. Most people can bike for an hour and will likely not realize that an hour has passed. I can assure you that every minute of and hour would be counted if you were jogging. Most people would not be able to do an hour of running.
2. BIKING HAS A MINIMAL IMPACT FOR MAXIUMUM STRENGTH
Biking is easy on your body. Almost anyone can ride a bike; young, old, small, large, couch potatoes and athletes. You are able to work your largest muscle groups without heavy impact and damage to your knees. In fact, bicycling has been used commonly as an exercise to help with knee pain and arthritis. Bicycling works the large muscles of the legs and hips; the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. You also use core muscles in your back and abdomen for stability. You use arm muscles to balance yourself. Riding a bike is considered a weight bearing exercise, which means that you are strengthening your bones when you ride. The best thing you can do for your bones is stress them with exercise. This causes them to become stronger. Bike training is an aerobic exercise. You breathe heavier and deeper expanding the lungs and bringing vital oxygen to all of your tissues.
3. BICYCLING IS RELATIVELY INEXPENSIVE AND CONVENIENT.
Once you get past the initial expense of purchasing a bike and helmet there are very few continued expenses. You don’t have to pay a trainer, pay for a gym membership, join classes, or exercise on anyone else’s time schedule. You don’t need special clothes or shoes unless you get super serious about riding. Most bike shops do maintenance items on your bike at very little cost if you buy a bike from them. Check out local stores for great service and to have any of your specific questions answered.
The trails are free. We are lucky to live in a town that values outdoor activities. Springfield has miles and miles of bicycle trails, both paved and gravel. The trails and maps are listed on the website ozarksgreenways.org.
4. BIKING IS A GREAT STRESS RELIEVER.
It is great for mental health too. You can literally bike your stress away. We all have everyday chronic stresses; the job, the kids, the spouse, traffic and bills. Our bodies were made to adapt to stress occasionally to save our lives. For example, if you encountered a wild animal your body would produce stress hormones like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. These stress hormones cause us to channel blood flow to critical areas of the body that would allow us to run faster, see better, and make quick decisions to save our lives. Our bodies were never designed to handle this stress all day every day. The only way to eliminate the stress hormones that we release throughout our modern stressful lives is to exercise. You literally have to run (or bike) off the stress. Riding a bike releases endorphins, the feel good chemicals for the brain. Endorphins are also natural pain killers. The more endorphins are released, the less overall body aches you will have. Research shows that exercise is an important, and required, part of dealing with our everyday stresses in life. Research also shows that exercise has as much benefit as medications in treating conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, and chronic fatigue.
5. IT’S FUN.
Riding a bike can be a social event and a way for you to bond with your friends and family away from the dinner table. As Americans we tend to schedule most social activities revolving around food. Birthday parties, holidays, celebrations, and catching up with friends usually happens over a plate of food or sweets. It is nice to step away from the table and do something active with your loved ones. It is proven that your brain fires quicker and your memory is stronger during and following exercise. Imagine the great chats you can have when your brain is firing at 100%. I love to see families out on the trails. Usually dad is pulling a cart behind his bike loaded with one or two giggling children. When they get a little older the kids follow the parents like little ducks on their miniature bikes sporting training wheels. Doing fun activities like biking will show your children that valuing fitness, movement and exercise is important. It will translate into better health decisions as they grow.
HOW MUCH EXERCISE DO I NEED?
Our bodies function better when we have 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. They key word here is moderate. What is moderate? A moderate pace when walking is 2.7 miles per hour. I don’t know about you, but I could probably walk, paint my fingernails, and talk on the phone at that pace. It doesn’t have to be fast to make a huge impact on your overall health. Why not do something that you enjoy, like bicycling. It is a great way to expand your lungs, work your muscles, hang out with your friends or family, and feel the wind in your hair. Sign-up to ride in local events that also *benefit non-profits like Bike MS: Ozarks Ride. So get moving! It is as easy as riding a bike!
*DIY? You can also help raise money for the MS Society by checking-in at our office on your favorite social media: Google+, Foursquare, and Facebook! We will donate $1 for each check-in to the MS Society.