Cycling is a great way to stay healthy. Here’s how to get back on your bike and feel fabulous — you might not even need to leave the house.
One hour of cycling adds a year to your life. That’s the finding of Cambridge University’s Professor of Risk, David Spiegelhalter and it supports previous research that suggests middle-aged cyclists have a life expectancy two years above the norm. Recent studies show it can also hold back ageing and boosts the immune system. Scientists found cyclists preserved muscle mass and strength with age, while maintaining stable levels of body fat and cholesterol, which is important for diabetics. They also produced more immune cells numbers, which usually start to drop in your 20’s.
The beauty of cycling is that it’s a ‘stealth’ exercise. You can integrate it into your life as part of your movement, like running errands, so you’re more likely to keep it up. Being diabetic, regular moderate exercise is more beneficial than one big weekly workout, so it definitely makes physical and economic sense to incorporate your bike riding into everyday use.
‘Lifestyle change is key to keeping up exercise,’ say cycling coaches.
On days when you feel tired, go with the target of doing just five minutes. More often than not, once the pedals start moving you’ll feel good and before you know it, you’ll have done a decent ride!
If you are returning to cycling after a long break, cycling groups run refresher courses and beginner rides. Check out what’s on offer in your area. Check out the Cycle Network. It is traffic free and stretches for hundreds of miles. The network routes are usually within a mile of where you live. Check out off-road rides in your area.
If you’re really reluctant to get out there, you can join a ‘spin’ (indoor cycling) class or cycle in the comfort of your own home. Most gyms run spin classes using stationary exercise bikes with a weighted fly wheel. It means you don’t have to invest in a bike to reap most of the cycling health benefits — or you could just use the exercise bike at the gym.
Spin sessions have the added psychological boost of making you feel part of a team, plus the motivation of an instructor. Or hook up your own bike to a turbo trainer. Clamp the stand-like device to the bottom of your back wheel, lifting it off the ground and away you go — in your bedroom, spare room, wherever… Turbo trainers are not expensive at all.
Saddle soreness can be an issue, especially on longer rides. Try padded shorts/leggings (shorts include an ergonomic foam pad for comfort and to absorb vibrations, with flat seams to stop chaffing) for extra protection and remember to wash cycle gear regularly. Try friction reducing creams, such as emollients or petroleum jelly. Saddles on women’s bikes are usually more padded wider at the back and narrower at the front to suit bone structure.
For longer rides, cutaway or anatomic saddles with a hole in the middle may help relieve pressure, but they may also simply redistribute the pressure to the sides. Saddles are a very personal choice, so it’s best to try a few before deciding which one works for you. It may make sense to invest in a satnav that supplies simplified directions on longer rides.
Low gears have a high/fast cadence (the rate at which you turn the pedals), so they are best for going uphill. Higher gears have a slow cadence and are harder to push — best for gaining momentum on the flat.
Get the Right Position
A few simple changes to your bike can make your ride easier and safer.
Saddle height: The wrong height can make pedalling harder and knee injuries more likely. The height should be 109% of your inseam length, that’s the measurement from your crotch to the floor.
Saddle position: Keep it completely flat, so you don’t slide forwards or backwards causing inefficient pedalling or even possible injury.
Handlebar height: For general leisure cycling, handlebar height should be about the same as saddle height. You may want to lower it slightly if you’re after a more aerodynamic position. When holding your handlebars, your back shouldn’t be hunched or bent, and your arms should be just slightly bent. A sore neck and shoulders after riding are a sign of incorrect height.
Tyres: Always check your tyre pressure before you head out. Under-inflated tyres will result in a sluggish, slow ride, while over-inflated tyres mean a harsh, bumpy ride. On the side of all tyres there will be a tyre pressure range for a standard leisure bike, this will typically be in the 70-110 psi range. Inflate your tyres to somewhere in the middle.
4 Ways Cycling Boosts health
- The aerobic workout cycling gives is great for your heart and lungs.
- It burns 400-600 calories an hour depending on how hard you pedal.
- It’s great for toning your lower body firming up calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes in one go.
- It is low-impact, so cuts your risk of injury. Although, for good bone health, you should also incorporate weight-bearing exercise alongside cycling.
E325 – Cycling Two-Wheel To-Feel Better – www.diabetic.today