Bicycling: the Health Benefits

It should be obvious that bicycling offers many of the same health benefits as running or jogging, cardio being first on the list. But where biking takes the edge over other activities is in how kind this sport is to knees and hip joints. “There’s a reason that biking is very popular among doctors, orthopedic surgeons in particular,” says Dr. Christopher Mattern, an orthopedic surgeon with Westmed Medical Group, which has offices in Rye and White Plains. “With biking, you’re not loading the joints as much and you get a greater range of motion in the hip and knee—the movement nourishes the cartilage, increasing fluids in the joints. In fact, my post-op protocol after knee surgery is to start the patient on a recumbent bike—both to ease stiffness and to increase the range of motion.”

Not only that, but it seems that the more you ride, the longer you may live. A study over a 14-year period in Copenhagen found that riding a bicycle to work decreased risk of mortality by about 40 percent compared to a sedentary control group.

Another study in Perth, Australia, in which 100 volunteers were given free bikes to replace some car trips with bicycle riding, found that not only did the participants’ physical ability and aerobic fitness improve, but they also had significant reductions in LDL cholesterol levels (the bad kind) and significant increases in HDL (the good kind). They also lowered their risk of heart attacks and strokes.

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But it’s important to remember too much of a good thing may not be healthy. “People think: how hard is it to ride a bike? And then they go out and ride for two hours and discover their neck hurts, their butt is sore,” says Joanne Gelsi, a physical therapist at Phelps Memorial Hospital Center in Sleepy Hollow. “You have to build up gradually. Excessive biking can aggravate arthritis or even cause tendonitis.”

Overall, bike riding is great aerobic exercise. Best of all, it’s fun. Just don’t forget your helmet.

HIT THE ROAD TO BURN MORE CALORIES
Calories burned per hour when bicycling outdoors and when using a stationary bike

 

140 lbs 195 lbs
Bicycling, light effort 381 531
Bicycling, moderate 508 708
Bicycling, vigorous 636 885
Stationary, light effort 330 487
Stationary, moderate 445 620
Stationary, vigorous 667 930

 

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