We all know the joyful exercise of cycling helps people stay in shape and improve their cardiovascular fitness; but there’s a lot more to this oft-ignored form of body movement, reveals Sreeram Viswanath
An activity that’s coming back in a big way as our sedentary lifestyle makes us weaker, obese, and age faster is cycling. The benefits of cycling are numerous, and they range from health to economic, from environmental to social. But despite its fetching simplicity, people across the world are still sitting on the benefits of this exercise form, unknowing of the simple ways in which it can boost our mental and physical health.
Cycling is an active transportation technology that has a direct impact on the health of a community. It can reduce obesity, keep heart disease at bay, and prevent Type 2 Diabetes, amongst other illnesses. Efficient in burning calories and fat, it is a full-body exercise that targets almost all the major muscle groups. It’s a low-impact activity that’s easier on the joints than running or other high-impact exercises, making it suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. Combined with strength training, cycling also helps build muscle and maintain bone density, thus preventing diseases like osteoporosis.
Cycling is an excellent way to stay de-stressed. Its physical benefits are evident and stand on its own. But in the mental realm, it reduces stress levels and provides people with energy, which in itself helps the body perform at its peak.
The mechanics are yours, but here are some basics
No hard and fast rules govern cycling, nor do you have to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy road bike or special cycling shoes and other accessories. It’s as simple as you can imagine, take your bike out and fly with the wind, pedaling away in delight.
Like any exercise, cycling has a tiny element of danger that can be easily avoided by using personal protective equipment like pads or gloves. The vehicle must be in good condition, with sturdy breaks and a functional bell, making it safe and smooth to drive for riders and pedestrians alike.
Cycling modes to choose
Since it is an easy enough activity, the only thing you should note is if you can ride steadily, keep your balance and maintain speed without falling.
Some of the common cycling modes include:
Road cycling: The most widespread form of cycling, road cycling is pursued both as a leisure and a racing endeavor. It is contested in various global forms, including a one-day race, time trials, criterium, and multi-state events like the Tour De France. Road cycling is known to improve cardio health and muscle conditioning (among other health benefits).
Mountain biking: Motoring through the mountains could be a delight for those who enjoy being outdoors amidst nature’s bliss. The rugged nature of hills can improve your strength, stamina, and flexibility. It is perfect for backpackers who want to familiarize themselves with hilly terrains, although beginners may find it a touch daunting.
Indoor/ Static cycling: Indoor cycling is the easiest and can be done at home or in a gym. You may practice the same by following a pre-recorded class or by creating your own indoor cycling workout.
Tandem cycling: A tandem cycle refers to a twin bicycle, a special form that you can ride in tandem with a partner. The practice, a kind of novelty cycling, dates back to the late 1800s. It is a mode of cycling that can promote teamwork and make riding more joyful, but the effort involved is more. Tandem cycling can be tried out around tourist facilities, parks, and bike stores.
Keeping it fresh: If you’ve done the same old workout for the last few months and are ready for a change, why not try cycling somewhere new?
Find a cycling event in your area or a cycling meet-up group and get along with a friend who’s experienced in cycling to help you out.
Overcoming beginner issues
If you’re a beginner cyclist, it is quite natural to encounter a few issues along the way. Here’s how you can overcome them:
Choice of bikes: Road bikes and mountain bikes cater to different purposes and different terrains. Get this appropriately checked before purchasing your bike. Mountain bikes, for example, are fitted in with shock-absorption suspension, which makes them capable of smoothly traversing through rocks, roots, and bumps.
Saddle sores: If you’re cycling relentlessly, you may get “saddle sores”. These are small wounds on your skin that can be painful. You can prevent them by ensuring that you are on the right bike, wearing clean shorts, and applying chamois cream (anti-chaffing) to your skin before beginning to cycle.
Poor diet: If you’re cycling and eating poorly, cycling results will be poor. To yield the best results, you must consume enough calories and get enough protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals with every meal. You should eat foods that are easy to digest, do not make you feel heavy, and can keep you energized while cycling.
Back pains: Choosing a cycle that doesn’t gel well with your body size could expose you to many problems, making you uncomfortable. It may end up causing pain in the neck, back, and knee. Moreover, a bike you are not very confident about renders you an unsure, unsafe rider. To avoid this, choose a bike that fits in well with your height or inside leg. Precisely speaking, you should be measuring your saddle height, pedal position, and wheel size.
The sun and the rain: Backpackers have a love for nature, and we appreciate it (for that’s what you call the joy of cycling). But the vagaries of nature have always proved to be the best examples of the adage ‘better safe than sorry’. Cycling in the rain could make mountain biking riskier due to the imminent danger of visibility and the risk of landfalls. Exposure to the sun could make you fall victim to heat strokes. This is where cyclists must keep enough water stock and get themselves protected with adequate sunscreens.
Cycling can make each of us a part of a world that celebrates its existence, with the capability of enhancing it in many ways. This pledge of good health and sustainability can be taken up by people young and old, proving that not all good roads are paved with difficulty.