Most of us have fond memories of riding bicycles as children and how that allowed us to explore and enjoy our neighborhoods and other places.
I remember taking my bike to undeveloped regions, riding on trails for hours, as well as roaming extensively with my friends.
As a kid, my bike was a key to adventure and freedom. As an aging adult I find it still is!
Consider the following:
First, some of our greatest resources in the Northern Wisconsin are our parks and trail systems, which allow us to escape to the beauty, serenity and renewal of nature. Biking in these regions can be a fabulous way of socializing and exercising.
Unfortunately, adults often convince themselves that they no longer are capable of biking. In my experience, people can do more than they think they can.
Second, have you ever seen someone who is blind riding a bike? How about someone who has difficulty just walking … can they ride? How about people with heart problems or diabetes?
My answer to these questions is “Yes”.
Many individuals who are blind are able to enjoy the thrill of cycling on a tandem bike and a high percentage with heart problems and diabetes can greatly benefit from riding under safe and appropriate conditions.
The most important muscle for us to exercise is our heart; this is only achieved through aerobic exercise. Because cycling is rhythmical, continuous, and uses large muscle groups, it’s a great form of aerobic (cardiovascular) conditioning.
Third, individuals with ongoing disease states (i.e. diabetes, heart problems, disabilities etc.) should have a medical work up and discuss with their physician how they can best stay active and functional.
Those with heart conditions should monitor their blood pressure (and pulse) and stay within their target ranges. Individuals with type II diabetes often can reduce the need for medication or insulin with appropriate exercise, although blood glucose and diet need to be monitored closely; people with diabetes should not exercise on an empty stomach.
Many military battles have been lost due to simple dehydration. All athletes need to stay well hydrated as even slight dehydration often can throw off medication metabolism and cause muscle cramping and other potentially serious issues.
Next, for those challenged with restrictive pain, weakness, or instability, skilled physical therapy can really help and improve exercise tolerance and function.
A licensed doctor of physical therapy is extensively trained to evaluate and treat joint, muscular, or nervous system problems, often reducing the need for medication or expensive diagnostic testing. Therapeutic movement and activity often is the best medicine and cycling (under safe conditions) can be a fantastic and enjoyable way to get more active.
Regarding equipment, Plato once said: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Varied and innovative bikes and cycling equipment are now available to help meet the needs and desires of those with disabilities or challenges.
Hand cycling bikes have become very popular for those with limited use of their legs or poor balance. Tricycles and four-wheeled bikes are also available, as well as cycles which are lower to the ground and have highly supportive and comfortable seats (improving back support and stability) as well as wheelchair bike tandems.
For those who are challenged by hills or who have endurance issues, electric bikes can allow them to negotiate many hilly conditions comfortably. For people with limited space, several light weight bikes can be folded up for storage or to easily pack for trips. Also, most city buses now accommodate bikes for those who use their transportation.
Just do it!
Finally, consider getting more active on a cycle this summer and discover or rediscover the joy and child in you. With the resources available, you don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy the wonderful benefits!