How do you spend your days off? Is it riding your bicycle leisurely around the neighborhood, embarking on cycling trips with friends, or doing serious training to boost your performance as a cyclist? All these activities are good for you and your heart health.
Cycling, like any physical undertaking, is part of a healthy lifestyle. You develop athleticism and agility that make you feel younger, lither, and stronger as you age. A bike ride, no matter how straightforward, can change your life for the better when it is done routinely.
What Cycling Does to the Heart
Cycling is an example of aerobic exercise, which helps improve your heart and lung health. Aerobic exercises increase heart rate and utilize oxygen to burn fats and carbohydrates, depending on the intensity.
These activities enhance the muscles’ ability to get oxygen from the circulating blood. Every time you pedal, you help your heart pump more blood to the muscles with a reduced effort. A stronger heart means a healthier body.
Because they raise your heart rate and increase your oxygen intake, aerobic exercises are closely intertwined with a cardio workout. To further enhance your heart health, you can incorporate strength training exercises like weightlifting into your workout routine.
Benefits of Cycling
Cycling can lower the risk of developing heart disease and related ailments by knocking down or mitigating factors that can lead to such conditions.
1. Preventing or Managing Heart Disease
Heart disease, a type of CVD, refers to conditions and ailments that affect the heart’s structure and function, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. These heart-related illnesses can be congenital or developed over time. Mayo Clinic cites age, sex, family history, poor diet, obesity, smoking, and physical inactivity as some of the risk factors for heart disease.
Against this backdrop, cycling helps you burn calories and lose weight in the process. As to how many pounds you can shed, that depends on the intensity of cycling and whether you do it leisurely or at a faster rate. A good starting point is to cycle 20 minutes and gradually increase the speed. Those who commute to work with their bicycles can attest to how effortless cycling is over time.
2. Losing Weight
With weight being a risk factor in developing heart diseases, exercise through cycling and eating nutritious food will create a huge impact on your health. More importantly, keeping your weight under control helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
High blood pressure, if left unchecked, can result in a heart attack or stroke. When you have high blood pressure, your arteries harden and thicken, and they put a strain on the body’s oxygen supply and crimp the blood flow. Fat and cholesterol can also build up in the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis.
You can consult with a fitness instructor to draw up an exercise program based on cycling and other physical activities to lose weight effectively.
3. Avoiding Diabetes
Diabetes and heart disease are linked to each other. They share risk factors like obesity and high blood pressure. Moreover, diabetes itself is a risk factor for heart disease. A physically active lifestyle is one of the best ways to manage those medical conditions as what these cyclists with diabetes did.
When you consume carbohydrates, the body breaks it down to simple sugars that are used as an energy source. As you ride on your bike, you expend energy, whose source is the sugars stored in the body. This lowers your blood sugar levels, which must be kept in constant check if you have diabetes or you want avoid the disease.
This study also shows that cycling, among other exercises, can reverse the impact of sedentary aging on the heart. The participants who are middle-age people undertook a two-year exercise program that led to an increase in VO₂ max, or maximal oxygen intake. As far as the heart is concerned, adherence to the exercises reduces left ventricular stiffness, which has a role in heart failure.
Related: 8 Best Exercises to Improve Your Heart Health
Tips for Becoming a Better Cyclist
Pace and Time
There are no hard-and-fast rules about cycling. You can do cycling at whatever stage you are in your life. However, it’s preferred to start early and cycle regularly to reap physical and mental gains.
Far from the worries and stresses of day-to-day life, cycling gives you a good excuse for a change of scenery outside the office and home. The whole experience calms your mind and fills your body with fresh air. When the weather is bad, you can convert your road bicycle into a stationary one to exercise at home.
Weight and Fitness
As an exercise, cycling is considered low impact because it bears little or minimal pressure on the joints. This means that you can start pushing and pedaling almost immediately wherever you are in the physical fitness spectrum.
To attain an ideal weight or fitness level through cycling, you have to come up with a structured cycling program that takes into account the intensity, speed, and time. You may have to do interval training as well if you are keen on increasing your performance and speed. Do consult your doctor on the aptness of any physical exercise to your body.
Aches and Sores
The rigors of pushing yourself hard while cycling include aches and soreness in the body. These pains may be a symptom of chronic conditions or a result of momentary muscle overuse.
One popular pain management product in sports is kinetic tape. You probably have seen cyclists or athletes sporting colorful bands on some parts of their body during training or competition.
Kinetic tape works by reducing the pain in the knee, leg, or back muscles utilized during cycling. This type of tape is elastic and flexible for comfort and movement. That means you can wear a band or two while cycling without worrying about aches or soreness.
For the sake of your heart health and your overall well-being, make the most of your bicycle at home. It is one powerful tool for exercise. Don’t forget to rest and recover after training.