Fitness mantra on wheels: Pedal your way to a healthy living

  • Susan Jose, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jul 21, 2015 10:28 IST
Regular cycling has multiple benefits, from a healthy heart to fit muscles to a better metabolism. (Shutterstock)

As one of the most popular bicycling races held in France draws to a close, we speak to experts about the health benefits of the old-fashioned fitness option.

Cycling is considered one of the healthiest habits an individual can cultivate, according to many fitness experts. “It is one of the easiest ways to exercise. One can go cycling anytime and anywhere, regardless of the weather condition,” says Dr Anil Ballani, consulting physician, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Khar (W). It also proves to be highly functional, as a pocket-friendly and a green means of transport.

With the ongoing annual cycling event, Tour De France, making headlines, interest in cycling is at an all-time high. Here, fitness specialists go a step further to reiterate some serious advantages of the activity.

Benefits of cycling

* It is good for the heart. Riding the two-wheeler for approximately 30km per week reduces the risk of contracting coronary diseases by 50%.

* It is good for your muscles. Cycling tones the body and assists in building muscle.

* Cycling helps develop stamina and improve metabolism.

* It increases your lifespan, and has, for long, been associated with increased ‘life-years’.

* Brisk cycling for an hour can help burn roughly 450 calories. On the other hand, a steady pace can lead to burning 300 calories.

* It is beneficial for joint mobility, especially for the hip and knee joints.

* Regularly cycling also acts as a stress buster.

* It can also help fight depression.

* It strengthens your immune system and helps prevent infections.

Indoor cycling versus outdoor cycling

In a city like Mumbai, cycling also means getting out on those crowded roads, and involves dealing with the humidity, pollution and traffic. One tends to wonder then whether indoor cycling is a better option, and an equally efficient substitute. But apparently it is not.

As a matter of fact, experts go as far as to say that indoor cycling is only recommended for people with problems of imbalance, vertigo and vision.

“Outdoor cycling helps one’s coordination skills much better than static cycling can. Exposure to sunlight is also good for general health as nowadays, most people in cities are tested positive for Vitamin D deficiency,” says Dr Vivek Allahbadia, a consulting orthopaedic and joint surgeon.

Outdoor exercise also tends to be more strenuous than the indoor version. Studies that have compared the exertion of running on a treadmill with that of running outside, have found that treadmill runners spent less energy to cover the same distance as did those striding outside.

This is because most indoor exercisers tend to face no wind resistance or changes in terrain. The same dynamic has been shown to apply to cycling, where wind drag can result in much greater energy demands, during 40km of outdoor cycling than the same distance on a stationary bike.

Recreational cycling

Although recreational cycling is considered beneficial, it is only so when done for at least three hours a week or 32km per week. Open-air cycling gives one a sense of well-being. Additionally, if people change their cycling routes regularly, then it breaks the monotony of their daily routine as well.

“I still have fond memories of cycling to my school as a kid. It continues to be one of the most thrilling activities for me. I find the Borivali National Park a very calming place to go to for cycling. Recently, I visited the Lakshadweep Islands, where I cycled at the Kavarati beach. It was one of the most pleasant experiences of my life. I would definitely recommend recreational cycling to all,” says Richa Sony, actor.

Negative effects of cycling

There are no major negative effects of cycling. However, in rare cases, it may cause angina. Hence, those with delicate health conditions should always take the advice of their doctors before taking up cycling. If cycling is not done in a gradual manner, it can worsen arthritis.

Cycling and diabetes

A large-scale research carried out in Finland found that people who cycled for more than 30 minutes per day had a 40% lower risk of developing diabetes. Experts agree that cycling does help in controlling diabetes, as any form of intense cardio-exercise works like insulin when it comes to reducing blood sugar levels. However, if diabetics do not complement their cycling lifestyle with a good diet plan, it can cause havoc.

With inputs from Dr Anil Ballani, consulting physician, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Khar (W), Dr Manoj Chadha, consulting diabetologist and endocrinologist, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Khar (W) and Dr Vivek Allahbadia, consulting orthopedic and joint surgeon.

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