FITNESS Though the exercise cycle has taken a backseat to the treadmill and other fancier gym equipment in recent years, fitness gurus are now slowly awakening to its tremendous health benefits, writes KAMALA THIAGARAJAN
C ycling is an excellent cardiovascular activity that not only gets your blood pumping to burn the excess calories, but also provides protection for the heart. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, regular cyclists have a longer, more productive life since the activity reduces possibility of heart attacks by almost 50%. Even if you are active in other sports, studies show health benefits increase by cycling. You gain greater flexibility and develop stronger immune system capable of effectively warding off diseases.
According to another study by the British Journal of Industrial Medicine, cyclists appear 10 years younger than their actual age. Here's what you'll gain by cycling for half an hour, at least 3-4 times a week:
Perfectly toned lower body
If you tend to accumulate fat easily on your lower body and are heavier around your hips, legs and thighs, cycling regularly (either on a stationary exercise bike or on a bicycle outdoors) can strengthen and tone. Studies have proved that it helps narrow your waistline, more so than other generic exercises such as walking or jogging. A 30-minute cycling session can burn 150 calories—the amount in a mid-sized candy bar. Yearly, this would amount to a five to seven kilos weight loss.
Eases arthritis and neck pain
Cycling keeps one flexible—especially around the knees and ankles. For this reason, it can ease arthritic stiffness of the joints, a common condition while ageing. The activity also exercises the muscles of the neck, keeping you active and free from injury and pain.
Increases stamina and energizes
Regular cycling works the major muscles of the legs, back and thighs. This improves core strength and increases stamina. As the exercise progresses, you tend to breathe more deeply. As a result, you'll find that you have more energy to get through the day and eventually feel less tired. However, care must be taken not to overdo the cycling session to the point of exhaustion, because this can defeat the purpose.
A half hour session initially, working up to a one-hour session is ideal. Aim to cover five to ten miles a day.
Builds better bones
Cycling also protects the bones preventing them from becoming weak and brittle and keeps the condition called osteoporosis (brittle bones due to the lack of calcium) at bay. It also gives better co-ordination and balance, preventing stress-related injuries and injuries from falls which are common during the onset of old age.
Keeps BP and cholesterol in check
An excellent fat-buster, regular cycling keeps blood pressure at optimal level and cholesterol under control.
Since the activity is neither too intense nor too easy, it gives an excellent conditioning workout, converting the artery clogging “bad” LDL cholesterol into the good HDL kind that protects and powers the heart.