In a previous post we looked at best exercise equipment during which we looked at Cycling and Bikes (outdoor variety). This post is going to look specifically at Cycling for the older Adult, together with the Unexpected Health Benefits which I for one was surprised to read and had overlooked, mostly because I was focusing on the usual and the obvious. I will also highlight the risks associated with this pastime, mostly linked to the new rider or the rider who has not ridden for some time.
Here are 7 of the Unexpected Benefits
* Mental Health – Living in the present, learning about mindfulness, gain confidence, finding your voice.
* Great for Sex Life Can Delay Menopause by 5 or so years – Increases libido
*Reduce the Risk of Cancer
* Reduce Memory Loss – Reduce the risk of early Alzeimer’s
* Balance – Gaining Core strength helps reduce the risk of falling both off and on the bike
* Slow the aging process – Not such a surprise but the benefits are real and tangible
* Comfort Zone & Boundaries are pushed – Feeling the Fear and doing it anyway
Medical Disclaimer: I am not a health professional and suggest if you have any queries or if you have underlying health concerns about your current or previous medical history please speak to a medical professional or your Doctor as I am not qualified to give advice to you or others
Mental Health-Finding Your Voice
No real surprise here, even though we may well be aware of the benefits to our mental health we still underestimate how getting outside can benefit not just our physical but overall mental health, in addition, it will increase certain hormones which make you feel good.
Getting outside into the sunshine (or even cloudy day) will increase the Vitamin D into your body which you naturally receive from sunlight. Stress and anxiety seems to diminish when taking regular outdoor exercise. The big and unexpected benefit is how when taking this as a regular form of exercise (even just a gentle cruise around the park) will have the undeniable benefit of de-stressing and bringing you into the present moment.
Try to notice all that is around you, the colours, other people going about their daily life. Evidence shows how being in the present moment and taking yourself out of self or cycling with others will grow both confidence and physical strength.
Having a different topic to talk about when family or friends phone is huge positive and you may find a new voice. A Good nights sleep is often a hit and miss affair as we get older, napping during the day, worried, anxious, medical issues all have a negative effect, as a result mental health will undoubtedly suffer. It is shown that regular physical and “feel good” exercise can help with longer periods of deep sleep, ultimately you wake up feeling more refreshed and more in charge of your life.
The Black Dog institute in Australia covers fairly comprehensively how cycling can have a major beneficial impact to depression/mental health. Be patient, can take 8-10 weeks before a significant benefit is shown
Great For Sex Life & Possibly Delay Menopause
Yes you read that right “great for sex life” As we age our desire for sex reduces and may be happily prepared to live a life with minimal sex, not because we choose this but simply the hormone which was big and present in our youth is no longer delivered through the body in anything like the capacity it was. Mother nature feels it’s time for this hormone to hibernate for longer periods. But this can change and a lot is linked to your mental and physical health
Evidence has shown that exercise and in particular cycling has an increased benefit, where studies have indicated that those of the older adults who cyce have 25% more sex than those seniors who don’. Evidence has also suggested that coincidentally women tend to delay the average and expected age of menopause by five or six years
Reducing the Risk of Cancer – Weight Loss
Until recently the leading cause of Cancer was smoking, according to the World Health Organization this has now been overtaken and today the risk of cancer caused by Obesity is leading the field.
Getting on your bike, will have many benefits but a huge and gigantic gain is regular physical exercise, aka cycling, will help increase and retain a higher metabolic rate, burn more calories and in turn lose weight. By losing the weight you will (according to WHO) have significant benefit in reducing the risk of Cancer as a result of Obesity.
Reducing Memory Loss – Reduce the Risk of Early Alzheimer’s
Research has shown that not only can physical and mental stimulation reduce the risk of early Alzheimer’s it can remove the risk completely. From middle age you should be keeping the body in good physical form, it’s not too late to start.
Why some people are pone to this illness more so than others is not a mystery. According to the experts a protein or increased protein of something called Tau is released into the brain. This protein appears to be significantly reduced by older adults who continue to exercise both the body and the brain. Things like Brain training, Chess, keeping organised, planning, learning, teaching, in fact all things associated with keeping the brain as active as possible.
When you feel like just vegging out in front of the television (again) try something more active.
Aerobic exercise is seen as a way to improve the risk of this protein.
Click on the link “Alzeimer’s Society” which covers how exercise is how to keep this disease at bay
Balance – Core Strength
Hindawi Research says falls in older people represent significant risk. In fact around 33% of adults over 65 fall at least once per year.
Not only does this result in minor to serious injury or fractures, but loss of confidence, which can result in yet less physical activity and thus core strength is compromised further and lessen the ability to balance. As you read this you will see the vicious circle that can easily ensue, breaking this cycle by cycling is a great start.
Cycling is not only a healthy physical exercise it is a non-weight bearing activity which posses less stress to joints and bones. Naturally your balance improves greatly which in turn increases core strength. A huge win-win for such a simple and invigorating activity.
The increase in leg strength and muscle endurance is evident. You should notice a change in 8-10 weeks. So be patient and take it slowly.
Slow The Aging Process
As we age we tend to lose muscle mass, this is normal. But the more sedentary you become the rate of muscle loss is increased and speeds as you age.
There is supporting evidence showing the variance of muscle mass between older cyclists and those who neither cycle or with little activity. By indicating a preserved muscle mass and strength compound assists in better cholesterol level and (in men) an increased level of testosterone. In addition, it will reduce the risk of chronic disease.
In the UK a study of over 260,000 older adults, men & women, active versus non-active cyclists. The study showed how by doing this simple and enjoyable activity can potentially cut their risk of death from all diseases by 40% and risk of Heart Disease or Cancer by 45%.
On those statistics alone and without including any of the other unexpected benefits now is the time to get on your bike.
Comfort Zone & Boundaries are pushed – Feeling the Fear and Doing it anyway
The first step to beginning a new physical activity starts with the right equipment. Falling off a bike is very real risk and hurts at any age but as an older person the risks are compounded and increased.
You need a helmet, good sturdy shoes and clothing that keeps you noticed. Good lights if cycling in poor light.
If you have not been in the saddle for some time then start slowly. If you are looking for a new bike then go into the store and try sitting on it, possibly even having a little test drive. A racing bike may not be a good first choice, you may feel a “sit up and beg” type is more suitable. An absolute must is a comfortable saddle/seat.
I have reviewed different types of bikes for the older adult, click on the link to see what is the best and most likely suitable for you.
Or if you wish to go straight to “Where to Purchase” >>>click on the link here<<<<
Before you decide to purchase a Bike or indeed before you hop onto the saddle it is important you weigh up the pros and cons. Not everyoe will be able to ride a bike safely.
Potential and Associated Risks
Traumatic injury to the body if falling off the bike, accidental injury due to collision, ccling in an urban area can increase air pollution.
It is not known if cycling prevents falls but there is evidence to show that if getting out on a bike and subsequent risks are outweighed by the benefits. There will never the less be a time when cycling on a road is too risky, at this point it is worth considering a Stationary bike, this activity, like cycling on a road, has the benefits of increasing leg strength, muscle endurance and balance
Once the risks have been addressed now is the best time to start. During the Covid pandemic our mental health has never been more tested, with this thought in mind and with the 7 unexpected benefits you have no excuse.
Thank you for all of you who have reached this far on my blog post. Please leave any comments below, others will benefit greatly from seeing who has pushed the boundaries and felt the fear and did it anyway
Happy cycling and speak soon
Founder of Hey Spring Chicken
Shout out to the wonderful Phtographers and image makers
Feature Image Couple in Sunset – Harli Marten for Unslpash
Girl on own, called “Getting out on a Bike” Ralph Ravi for Unsplash
Him & Her Bike – Ajay Karpur for Unsplash
Balancing Bird – KT for Unspalsh
New Hobby & Fearless woman in River – Joshua J Cotten for Unsplash
Hindawi – Balance and Core strngth x 2 Pilot Studies