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Bicycling your way to a better life

 

Strengthen the bones in your back and wrists

Yesterday I wrote about the benefits of exercising in general, and more specifically about how walking both prolongs and enhances your golden years. I'd like to go a step further (no pun intended) and consider adding occasional recreational bicycling to improve bone density in the wrists and spine. Note that I'm specifically excluding competitive bicycling, and suggesting that even recreational cycling be done occasionally in combination with walking. Bicycling is not considered a weight bearing exercise, and studies are beginning to appear which show intense, competitive cycling can actually lead to loss of bone density.

Don't fall victim to reduced bone density

Mom, child, toddler, and infant - riding a single bike!Having said that, adding recreational open road cycling to your exercise regime can help provide some benefit to wrist and vertebrae bone density. Anyone who has ridden a bicycle for a few miles can attest to the weight and impact loading on their wrists, arms, and shoulders, as well as their pelvis – and into the vertebrae immediately adjacent to them. Riders should be careful to ride with helmets (for obvious safety reasons), and should wear gloves to avoid putting too much pressure on the ulnar nerve (running to the little finger, ring finger, and across to the thumb) and the median nerve (part of the ring finger, middle and index finger, and thumb). The weight and vibration absorbed at the handlebars will lead to ‘handlebar palsy' or in extreme cases, can cause carpel tunnel syndrome. For a similar reason, bicyclists may want to find a comfortable seat (and riding technique) to avoid developing a tender tush.

I'm speculating on the benefits of bicycling with regard to bone density in the wrist and vertebrae; to my knowledge there are no studies to support the theory. What are your thoughts? Perhaps it's time to resurrect your bike and do a little research – let me know what you come up with!

Lead a longer, more enjoyable life.

 

All it takes is half an hour of exercise a day.

Live longer and take joy in those extra years – with a minimum of time and effort. Who would've thought? I ran across a video on YouTube that lays it all out – check it out.

I did a little more research about walking, and learned some other benefits. I thought there were two main types of exercise, high-impact and low-impact. I'd come to the conclusion that high-impact exercises such as jogging or jumping rope were bad for your joints and bones, while low impact exercises such as walking, bicycling, or swimming provide a good workout without grinding your joints to an early grave. I almost got it right.

Weight bearing exercises

There is an intermediate option for those interested in exercising: weight bearing exercises. Most people lose bone density as they age. You can take steps to keep your bones healthy over time – just use them! Walking is a great exercise to reduce or reverse the loss of bone density (or osteoporosis). Walking loads the bone with your full weight and transmits small impact loads with each step you take. Our weight and those small impacts each time we take a step actually strengthen the bones and help prevent osteoporosis.

Walking is a great way to avoid the joint issues presented by high impact exercises while providing enough challenge to your skeletal system to keep your bones as healthy as possible. Keep in mind that the bones most vulnerable to breaking as we age are the hips, wrists, and vertebra – and walking doesn't do much for the wrists or upper spine. Some different weight bearing (but low impact) exercises may help strengthen those other areas. More on that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, start a healthy habit – take a walk.