Let’s Go Ride a Bike!

This month happens to be the confluence of several national celebrations: Physical Fitness and Sports Month, Senior Health and Fitness Month, and Mental Health Awareness Month. And, one more, Bicycle and Bicycle Safety Month, which can help celebrate the first three!

There are a lot of reasons to love biking, whether it brings back childhood memories, provides an eco- and wallet-friendly mode of transport, or gives you an energizing way to move your legs to your favorite playlist without fancy dance moves.

Spend more than a few minutes on a bike and you’ll feel the immediate cardio impact, but that’s not all. “Cycling, whether indoors or outdoors, can benefit the lungs, heart, skeleton, muscles, and the mind,” says Bianca Beldini, who has a doctorate in physical therapy and is also a USA Triathlon Level 1 coach, competitive age group triathlete, and certified indoor spin instructor.

As a non-weight bearing activity, biking can help get you stronger without overly taxing your joints. If you (or your body) are not a fan of higher impactactivities like running or jumping exercises, biking is a good alternative. It puts less stress on joints of the hips, knees, and ankles.

Whether you ride down the street or in your living room, you’ll be getting exercise. Indoor biking can provide more control for a beginner and is a convenient option for anyone with a desk job. “Indoor is great if you work from 9-5 during the week and don’t have any daylight to sneak in a ride. It is super-efficient because you can get straight to a workout and don’t need to worry about getting through traffic,” says Lauren De Crescenzo, a former professional cyclist.

Outdoor biking offers the advantage of being outside and breathing fresh air, but is obviously subject to available daylight hours or unpredictable road, weather, and traffic conditions. “Road cycling can build muscular strength along with coordination and balance skills … and gives the rider an opportunity to travel and explore the world in a healthy way,” says Beldini. Morning riders can also benefit by getting some sunlight to “help reset your circadian rhythm for sleep, make vitamin D, and decrease stress,” says Jessica McManus, a physical therapist.

Santa Clara Police Chief Pat Nikolai notes, “The days are longer, and the weather is getting warmer and nicer, really making it ideal conditions to go on a bike ride.”

Safety Tips for Bicyclists:  

  • Use lights at night (at minimum, a front white light and rear red reflector)
  • Always wear a properly secured helmet. Helmets significantly reduce the chance of a head injury in the event of a crash
  • Bicyclists must travel in the same direction of traffic and have the same requirements as any slow-moving vehicle
  • Yield to pedestrians, just as a driver would. Pedestrians have the right-of-way within marked crosswalks or within unmarked crosswalks at intersections.

Sources: Byrdie.com, Is Biking Actually Good Exercise? We Asked Fitness Experts, by Lesley Chen, Sept. 9, 2021 and City of Santa Clara, CA.

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