This article is written by Alex Bristol.
Many adults across the world suffer from health conditions that can cause the usual day to day activities to be a struggle.
A recent study from the National Health Council states, “chronic diseases affect approximately 133 million Americans, representing more than 40% of the total population of this country. By 2020, that number is projected to grow to an estimated 157 million, with 81 million having multiple conditions.”
This means that almost half of all Americans suffering from at least one chronic condition. So, it’s never been more important to ensure we remain physically active where possible.
Regular exercise can protect us from diseases such as obesity, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. But, if you already have a health condition, you may be wondering what you can do to incorporate physical activity into your lifestyle.
Unfortunately, it’s not an overnight fix. It’s important to find a way to exercise that has a low intensity to gradually increase fitness levels over time.
Cycling is a healthy, low-impact activity that can be enjoyed by all ages. Riding a bike from a young age makes it easy to take to the great outdoors and start incorporating this form of exercise into your daily routine.
Getting ready to jump on the saddle
It’s never a race. Start slow and incorporate a short ride into your week where you can. Building up to cycling 1 hour a week is the perfect goal to begin improving your health.
With the goals set, we now need a little motivation. Why is cycling so important and what can it prevent? Well, cycling can cause less strain and injury to your muscles than any other exercise. Pedaling in a gear that offers some resistance will soon become easier which makes it a fantastic way to gauge your improvements without pushing yourself too hard.
Did you know that cycling uses multiple muscle groups? Incorporating your calves, thighs, arms, glutes, feet, and shoulders, you are actually working out multiple muscles at the same time. There’s also something to be said about the improvement of the upper body when cycling. Many cyclists change their position when riding. Whether it’s standing or leaning the upper body plays a big role when you’re on a bike.
Pulling everything together, it’s time to plan a short ride. A 10 minute light ride is all you’ll need to begin. Any health problem can be a challenge to tackle, so regular breaks should be on the agenda if you find yourself struggling to continue. Eventually, you’ll notice the improvement each week helping you to build up your fitness and reap the benefits of cycling.
What are the benefits of regular cycling?
All the muscle groups that are used in cycling are sure to encourage weekly cycling but, on top of everything, cycling makes for a great cardiovascular exercise which means your lungs, heart, and blood vessels also part of the action when pushing those pedals.
The total benefits from cycling consist of:
- Improvements to your posture
- Improvements to your cardiovascular fitness
- A huge improvement in your joint mobility
- Reduction in your body fat levels
- Manage and prevent diseases through the improved immune system
- Increases your strength in the muscles and contributes towards your flexibility
- A noticeable decreased in your stress levels
- Strengthening of your bones
- Reduces your anxiety and depression.
How do I rebuild fitness levels with cycling?
1. Find the perfect bike
Sometimes the latest road bike just won’t cut it for you. They’re terribly advanced and will make your efforts of starting out much more difficult. Something simple like a hybrid bike or a commuter bike would be recommended to begin building your fitness level.
2. Make sure your set up is right
Whether your bike has been in the shed or you’ve ordered a brand new bicycle, it’s imperative to set your bike up correctly. Measuring the seat height will ensure you’re not exercising with terrible form when cycling for the first time.
3. Use an app
There are tonnes of ways to track how well you’re doing, but nothing shows you that you’ve improved more than hard data. With smartwatches, such as the Fitbit and Apple watch readily available. I would definitely be open to adding one of these on your wrist when you begin cycling.
4. Ensure you’re warming up
A lot of cyclists miss out on this vital point. Stretching helps open up your muscles to allow blood flow and prepares them for exercise. Much like a car needs to warm up before the optimum performance, you’re body is no different. A quick stretch before you jump on the saddle and a 5-minute ride at 40% of your maximum effort are all that is needed as a simple, yet effective warm-up.
5. Get into the nutrition mindset
Cycling doesn’t just finish when you put the bike away. Your body needs nutrition to feed the muscles you just worked. Increasing your protein intake is a sure-fire way to get your body back into shape, repair your muscles, and increase your performance for the next ride.
6. Vary your rides
As mentioned, starting with a ride around the block can be the perfect starting point. As time goes on, you’ll notice the speed you’re cycling is increasing. This would be the best time to change the tempo or terrain. Transitioning to a national park or forest can add a little more excitement to your rides whilst making them a little more challenging.
7. Cycle to work
If you’re struggling to fit the time into cycle each week then dedicating a particular day in the week to cycle to work would be a step in the right direction. Combining commuting and exercise will help you rack up the hours a week that you’re striving to achieve.
Be warned, cycling on the road can be dangerous for the inexperienced rider so building up a foundation over time can help towards getting you ready for the commute to work. This step is a definite progression point that should be in your goals when getting back to cycling regularly.
8. Remember safety
Ensuring that you’re ready to go on a bike ride doesn’t just finish with the warm-up. Seasoned pro or not, everyone should wear a helmet on a ride to prevent serious injury. Cycling is only fun when no one is hurt. Whilst riding your bike is an all-round exercise with very little negatives, it’s essential to maintain safety not only when working out your muscles, but when you’re on your bike in general.
9. Incorporate indoor cycling
Sometimes the weather gets the better of us and that’s always expected. If you’re anything like me, then the slightest bit of rain will have you sitting indoors keeping away from any type of outdoor activity. But this doesn’t mean you can’t remain active. With more advanced technology than ever, you can find yourself a gym that offers a recumbent or upright indoor bike to exercise in the warm.
10. Recovery is key
Like with all exercise, your muscles need to recover. Paired with the right nutrition and an adequate amount of rest, your body will continue to grow strength to strength on a weekly basis. I always say that increasing your fitness is 40% diet, 40% rest and 20% exercise. It really puts improvement into perspective when hitting your goals.
11. Stop reading
Read as much as you like, but the results start from doing. The ones who achieve are the ones that do, so start implementing everything at a steady pace and you’ll be able to increase your physical fitness even with health problems.
Cycling can be one of the best ways to combat health problems and following the responsible attitude of gradually building your fitness overtime can certainly benefit you in the long run.
The first steps can really be as simple as grabbing a helmet, pulling out your bike, warming up, and taking to the street for a short ride. Sprinkle a bit of positive mindset to your week and you’ll be seeing considerable improvements.
Don’t let health problems get in the way by starting slow and meeting your gradual goals.
Author bio: Alex is a cycle expert at Pedallers and focuses on reviewing road bike accessories and general cycling. She searches for the most up to date products that match the needs of cyclists across the world. Whether it’s recent news or the best bike set-ups, Alex is a trusted source for anything around cycling.
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