As we age its important to keep our bodies strong and mobile by incorporating exercise into our daily routines. One of the best forms of exercise for seniors is bike riding as it offers low impact on our joints and great cardiovascular benefits. This article will breakdown the steps for beginning bike riding for seniors to make sure you’re getting the most of the activity.
The Invention of the Bicycle
Now nearly everyone in the world has attempted to ride a bicycle at one point or another. But this amazing invention has a lot more history than most people are aware of. The earliest record of a two-wheeled, human-powered vehicle is the German Draisine from 1817. The most famous example of a bicycle is the high wheeler with the large front wheel. This design was superseded by the “safety bike” in 1885 which used equal sized wheels and had both full chain and pedals with adjustable crank arms. In 1901, the global bicycle population peaked at over 100 million worldwide.
Benefits of Bike Riding For Seniors
When beginning bike riding for seniors its important to understand the large list of benefits that come from riding a bike.
Improved respiratory health – Seniors who regularly bike are less likely to develop respiratory problems later in life. Healthy lungs play a vital role in adequate uptake of oxygen to fulfill the needs for cells in the body. Having strong and healthy respiratory health acts as a vital cog in maintaining overall wellbeing.
Improved cardiovascular health – Riding a bike will also improve the cardiovascular system and keep your heart healthy. This is especially true for seniors who struggle with weight as biking will help with burning calories.
Social Activity – Going for a bike ride with friends is one of the best ways to promote social activity among seniors. Although there are other forms of exercise such as swimming, biking is becoming more and more popular among seniors.
Improves Sleep Quality – Bike riding improves sleep quality for seniors as padding between joints is removed and also impacts on deep tissue circulation. This leads to more restful sleep and less back pain within the body.
Improved mental health – The physical and mental benefits of biking greatly impact the health of seniors in a positive way. Many studies have shown improved memory, concentration and cognitive function for seniors who frequently ride bicycles.
Low Impact Exercise – Exercise is one of the best ways to combat the effects of aging. Physical activity can help slow down the natural decline in our bodies that comes with many conditions like osteoporosis and dementia. Rides on a bike offer low impact movement on the joints and are easier for those suffering from any type of physical restrictions or injuries.
Low Maintenance – A bike is incredibly easy to maintain and will require small amounts of upkeep over time. The general maintenance of a bike consists of cleaning and lubricating parts to prevent wear. The most important part of bike maintenance is making sure the chain and gears do not become loose or damaged.
Low Cost Activity – The cost of riding a bike is often less than the cost to own a car. Whether you need assistance with transportation or need less stuff to store, biking offers many savings over time. For low income seniors this offers a fantastic solution to keep down exercise activity costs associated with leisure centres of gyms.
Steps For Beginning Bike Riding For Seniors
Step 1 – Find The Right Size
If you are a senior and wish to begin biking it’s important to take steps to ensure the activity is safe and fun. The first step is ensuring you have the right bike for your body size. If you’re not sure about getting a bike then ask a friend or family member to help out. Its important to get the size right to make sure you’re comfortable when you ride for long periods of duration. Bikes tend to come in small, medium, large or extra large sizes.
Or more specifically 150, 152, 154, 156, 158 and beyond. Someone who is 5’8 would be best to use a bike in the 152-154 bracket. Someone who is 5’10 is best to use a bike in the 154-156 bracket and someone who is 6′ or more should use the 158-160 sized bike.
Step 2 – Choose A Quality Brand
Now for beginning bike riding for seniors you don’t have to go spending a large amount of money on a bike but having a look at reviews online before you purchase is suggested. Some cheap out of the factory bikes are of low quality and can breakdown or fault whilst riding which can cause injury.
Some of the best bike brands include Specialized, BMC, Cannondale, Trek and Giant. There are other quality brands and speaking to a local bike store can help you narrow down your selection to a quality bike you can use for a long time.
Step 3 – Always Wear A Helmet
Now one of the biggest mistakes that seniors make is not wearing a helmet. Whether you’re a beginner or regular rider in your community, it’s very important to always wear a helmet. The fact that you are over 65 years old will not protect you from injury in the event of a crash.
Head injuries can be very severe and helmets are the best way to protect yourself against brain injury. Anytime you get on the bike wear a helmet, you never know when you may accidentally fall and even the best riders of the world use this advice. Beginning bike riding for seniors starts with safety as hospital trips are best avoided.
Step 4 – Start Slow And Work Your Way Up
With any exercise activity it is important to start slow. Doing the same exercise for long periods of time can actually wear down your body’s ability to perform the activity at its best. Avoid doing too much over a short period of time and this will help you avoid injury. Begin with a ten-minute ride followed by five minutes and then gradually increasing the amount of time you ride as you feel more comfortable with it. Remember that if you get off the bike and are not feeling well to rest or go back inside.
Step 5 – Be Aware Of Safety
Lastly you’ll need to be aware of your surroundings when riding a bike. Biking generally is a safe activity but you’ll want to make sure there are no road hazards that could cause you to become injured or have an accident. If its raining or snowing it might not be the best day for riding as it can be harder to see obstacles in your path. When beginning bike riding for seniors make sure you are both visible and audible to other people on the road with bike lights or reflective clothing.
Also be aware of dangers like cars that could drive in front or beside you, or be aware of other riders next to you who may hit you accidentally. Riding a bike for seniors is a great way to take advantage of all the benefits that come from the activity. It promotes health and wellness and it’s easy to do almost anywhere.
Types of Bikes For Seniors
Mountain Bike – Buyers of mountain bikes will be looking at a bike with multiple gears usually. These are often purchased by those who like to be more adventurous or ride on rough roads and terrain. If you’re going to be riding through forests, over rocks or rough terrain then this is a great type for you.
Road Bike – If you want to commute regularly or use the bike for leisurely purposes then a road bike is probably the best choice for you. These bikes have gears designed more for flat surfaces and often look like a regular bicycle in terms of their appearance.
CycloCross – CycloCross bikes are a little different from the other two mentioned here. They look a bit like road bikes but have features that allow you to ride trails too. When beginning bike riding for seniors this is a great bike because its used for different types of riding without getting a specific bike for each one.
What Type Of Bike Should You Get?
When beginning bike riding for seniors it’s important that you get the right type of bike. You should consider getting a mountain or cyclo-cross bike if you want to get involved in off-road riding or you want a bike that helps you take on the trails. These bikes will have wide tires and are designed for those surfaces. If you’re interested in commuting to work, going on weekend rides with the family or doing longer training rides along flat terrain then a road bike is probably the best choice for you.
Join A Local Cycling Community
When beginning bike riding for seniors you can get social or improve your bike riding skills by joining a local club for beginners or intermediates. There are many clubs around the world and most have an associated website where you can check out a meeting time and location. These clubs tend to be for people of all abilities and even offer a variety of events for everyone to participate in. There are many seniors only bike riding clubs which often stop for coffee at cafes to enjoy the social aspect of the activity as well. Best of all the cake and coffee is well earned after the exercise!
When beginning bike riding for seniors a club can also have lessons for social riding which can be tremendous for early learning. Cycling clubs are generally made up of people who enjoy riding bikes, so you’ll be able to improve your bike riding skills as well as make new friends or participate in group rides among other activities. These clubs also offer you an opportunity to socialize and become more involved in your community.
You can find more about potential bike cycling clubs near you on USA cycling.
What Muscles Does Bike Riding Strengthen?
When beginning bike riding for seniors you’ll be strengthening a number of different muscle groups.
The primary muscle group is the legs and thighs. As you pedal your leg muscles will work hard to maintain a good pace and when you change gears this work load can increase so it’s important to build up your effort slowly over time to avoid injury. The lower legs, hips and buttocks are also worked significantly as they power your legs forward during the pedalling process. Arm, shoulder and back muscles are also worked as you steer and control the bike.
Step Up You Fitness Game
Cycling is a great way to keep fit and if you’re a senior there are a few things you need to do to be safe when riding. Luckily these things are fairly easy to do.
Nutrition For Bike Riding Seniors
When beginning bike riding for seniors its important to make sure you’re properly fuelling and hydrating for your bike rides. Focusing on foods high in protein, carbs and good fats is a great way to make sure you’re getting the nutrition your body needs to perform at its best.
When riding your bike you should aim to drink 20-30oz of water every hour to keep hydrated. Snacking on bananas, muffins, apples, muesli bars, honey or other high carbohydrate snacks will help to keep your body energised for pedalling. Eating a light meal 90 minutes before the bike ride will ensure adequate energy and eating a nutritious protein rich meal after the bike ride is almost important for recovery as we age.
Cycling Is Perfect For Seniors
So as you can see there is a huge range of benefits for seniors to get into cycling today. Speaking to a local bike store or searching online can help to find the right bike for you. Focusing on gradually building up your fitness will allow you to enjoy longer rides with friends. Cycling will be the perfect candidate to keep you on agile and strong as you move along the path of life.