Magazine article The Nation's Health

Cycling: Rolling Your Way to Better Health

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Cycling: Rolling Your Way to Better Health

Article excerpt

Some people choose to walk for fitness. Others may choose to run. But if you choose to roll, you may be one of many Americans who cycle toward better health.

Bicycling is a great source of aerobic fitness that works out a variety of muscles at one time, particularly the ones in the upper and lower parts of your legs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People cycle for many reasons, says Kristine Karlson, MD, an associate professor of community and family medicine and orthopedics at Dartmouth College's Geisel School of Medicine and a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Cycling can be an alternative to driving. People may turn to cycling if they have joint pain or injuries related to overusing muscles in other physical activity, Karlson says.

"A lot of people who take up cycling are actually injured runners," Karlson says. "They have had knee problems. They've had foot or ankle problems. Then they discover cycling as an alternative ... so we see a lot of folks start cycling in their 40s and 50s. Otherwise, people might choose to start cycling for a variety of reasons: because their friends are doing it, because they can take their kids with them."

Cycling carries the benefits from most types of aerobic activity, Karlson says. Benefits of physical activity include stronger muscles and bones, a lower risk of chronic illness, including cardiovascular disease, and a lower risk of mental health issues and sleep problems, according to CDC.

Cycling can also keep you connected socially. Joining a club or meet-up group that cycles is similar to the social interactions you'd get from signing up for an exercise class.

"People say, 'Hey, where were you? Missed you on the ride the other day,'" Karlson says. "They end up with social gatherings after a bike ride for a meal or at a bakery or something like that. So there are lots of social benefits to getting together."

If you're thinking of cycling regularly, talk to your health care provider about the benefits and any possible physical health risks that could prevent you from doing it safely.

Once cleared by a health professional, make sure to get help from experienced riders and bicycle shop owners familiar with cycling so that your bike suits your physical needs. …

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