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Bicycling can help you outmaneuver weight gain and glide into good health.
by Eric Schneider
For many, bicycling brings to mind leisurely rides down quiet lanes, an idyllic pastime that is associated with open suburban byways and laid-back rural life. While that image is certainly true to an extent, more Americans—particularly those in cities—are placing their feet on pedals and hitting the road for recreation as well as health benefits.
Douglas Meyer, 40, a marketing consultant and avid bicyclist in Saratoga Springs, New York, found what he says was an unexpected benefit: increased mental acuity. “Riding my bike, even if just on my short commute to and from my office, helps me clear my mind and relax, even on the toughest of days,” Meyer says.
The US Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey shows that bicycle commuting in America rose by 43% between 2000 and 2008, signaling a shift from cycling as primarily a means of recreation. Instead, more Americans are embracing biking as a daily routine that provides both transportation and fitness.
“Cycling has multiple benefits,” says enthusiast Liz Applegate, PhD, director of sports nutrition at University of California—Davis, new home of the US Bicycling Hall of Fame ( www.usbhof.
Driving Down Weight
Bicycling is also an excellent way to build muscle strength in your legs, as well as burn calories and control weight, adds Applegate, author of Eat Smart, Play Hard (Rodale). The average person who rides at a moderate pace for an hour, for example, can burn between 400 and 600 calories.
Applegate points to a recent study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (3/24/10), which found that women who exercise daily are better able to control their weight. Bicycling, Applegate says, can provide that regular exercise, and outdoor biking can burn even more calories when riding up hills or against the wind.
Bicycling may also help lower the risk for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and other “ailments that come along with inactivity and aging,” Applegate says. Bicycling helps your
Running and other forms of exercise can benefit the body in many of the same ways, but bicycling has distinct advantages.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, cycling is actually associated with lower injury risk. This is in part because bike riders, unlike runners, don’t bear their full body weight and are less likely to strain their joints. These virtues also tie in directly to the o...