Coach’s Corner: Getting Back on a Bike

Older Couple BikingSpringtime kicks off biking season, an excellent cardiovascular activity that can also help you prevent cancer by getting at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity and staying a healthy weight. For adults who have shied away from biking for years, take advantage of the Spring season to go out for a ride.

AICR’s fitness expert Mary Kennedy, MS, worked with Duncan Warden, MSc, USA Triathlon Certified Coach, to answer some of the most common questions we get asked about biking.

Q: I was thinking of starting biking. Is riding a bike a good exercise option?

A: Biking is a great workout option for a variety of reasons. Here are some of them:

  1. Improves overall health: Like other aerobic activities, biking offers a host of health benefits, including reducing your risk of cancer along with diabetes and other chronic diseases, reducing levels of stress and improving sleep.
  2. Helps you achieve or maintain a healthy weight: Relative to other activities, biking burns a lot of calories. A 150-pound person will burn approximately 540 calories per hour biking at a moderate pace; 680 calories at a vigorous pace.
  3. Easy on the joints: Biking is a low-impact activity. It does not stress weight-bearing joints (e.g., knees, ankles) which makes it a great option for people with arthritis or general joint pain. It is also an excellent cross-training option for people who primarily participate in weight-bearing activities (e.g., running) and want to give their joints a rest.
  4. Great for the environment: If you swap your car for your bike a few times each week – a trip to the post office, a visit to a friend or a commute into work – you will help improve both your personal health and the health of the environment.

Q: I haven't biked since I was a kid. Is getting back on a bike really as easy as the saying goes?

A: While your body may always remember how to ride a bike, your skills are probably a little rusty. Coach Warden suggests a little practice before you head out to the open road. His advice: “Go to a big empty parking lot to practice your starting, stopping, shifting and turning skills. Once you have gained some confidence, look for bike path or a quiet road with a nice, wide shoulder to continue your training.”

Q: Do I need to buy an expensive bike or special equipment?

A: Here are the three essential items you need to get started biking:

  1. Helmet. It’s an essential piece of safety equipment. Don’t consider getting on a bike without one that fits your head properly.
  2. The right size bike. A bike doesn’t need to be expensive, but it must “fit” so you can control it properly.
  3. Pair of bike shorts. Bike shorts make riding much more comfortable. They are padded, which helps your “seat” deal with the bike seat.

Coach Warden suggests going to a local bike shop for help selecting your equipment. If you are buying a new bike, ask your sales person to show you how the shifting works, as it is likely different from what you remember as a kid.

Q: Is there anything else I need to know?

A: No. Once you have the right equipment and skills, a bike workout follows the same rules as any other workout: warm-up at a slower pace for the first few minutes, cool-down for the last few minutes, and push yourself at a moderate-to-vigorous pace in-between. And most importantly, have fun!


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