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
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!