Health Benefits of Biking

Like other activities that raise your heart rate and increase your body's oxygen consumption (such as jogging and calisthenics), bicycling is an aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise serves a number of functions. It strengthens your heart and circulatory system, which pumps oxygen and other nutrients in your blood through your body. It helps you burn calories, causing you to lose weight. And when done regularly, aerobic exercise increases your energy level and lowers your blood pressure; it also makes you less tired during the day and allows you to sleep better at night. Because repeated exercise lowers your risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, even cancer—and keeps your body in top working order-aerobic activity such as bicycling, in effect, makes you live longer.

All-Around Health

While any sort of aerobic exercise is good for you (if it's done safely and sensibly), cycling is particularly well suited for all-around health. When riding the right size bike with correct form, pedaling is smooth and rhythmic and is less stressful on the legs than jogging—which can damage the knees, legs, and feet. You're also less likely to pull or twist a muscle on a bike than you would in a sport that requires jumping, quick turning, or sudden stopping, such as basketball or tennis. With the exception of swimming, bicycling is the exercise that puts the least amount of stress on the joints of the body.

Biking provides a better cardiovascular workout than many other exercises and sports. It's great for burning fat (that's why stationary bikes are so popular in health clubs) and helps speed up your metabolism to make the most of the food you eat. Also, cycling keeps muscles toned and bones strong—not just in the legs, where most of the work happens, but in the arms, back, shoulders, and buttocks as well. A well-balanced muscular development will make you healthier, stronger, and probably better looking!

Flexibility and Adaptability

Biking is adaptable to any level of fitness. If you don't think you can handle the rigorous paces and steep hill climbs of advanced riders, you can simply ride slower and on flat surfaces. As you steadily increase your fitness level you can adapt your riding routine to keep your body challenged.

Cycling for fitness doesn't take long, either. With as little as a half-hour a day you can get in shape. Here again, time spent is variable. You can increase or decrease the length of your rides as necessary and still get a good workout. And if the level at which you ride and your style of riding is safe, you're never too old for bicycling. Where many activities can become harmful or risky for older people, bicycling is always practicable. In fact, because of cycling's health benefits, the more you ride the more able you'll be to continue riding as you get older. With a doctor's approval, it's not unimaginable that cyclists can keep going well into their seventies and eighties. From a medical standpoint, the more you ride the younger you get!

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