With the arrival of good weather, it is possible that many of us are encouraged to move more by bicycle. Little by little, this activity has spread and is increasingly practiced in urban environments. And this is good news because, in the long run, riding a bike has many benefits for physical and mental health, as well as being environmentally friendly and economical.
According to the 2019 Bicycle Barometer, more than half of Spaniards use the bicycle with some frequency. In their latest study, they highlighted the increase in the use of this transport for daily trips: around 1.5 million people use it daily to go to work or study. And this is a great advance, both for how it affects our environment and for the benefits it has on our health.
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Without going any further, right now the bike is a means of transport that allows us to maintain a certain social distancing, and thus we protect ourselves a little more from a possible contagion of the covid. But by exercising outdoors we also achieve other things. By pedaling we oxygenate our brain more easily, so our thoughts are more fluid, and we secrete hormones that reduce our stress and improve our mood.
Some studies suggest that those who practice this sport are less prone to anxiety or depression. And, in general, physical activity on two wheels improves our productivity during the day, as we come to class or work more animated and focused.
Nor can we ignore the benefits it has in our physical form. Various muscles and joints are strengthened if we practice this sport frequently and with proper posture. This is important because, as in any other sport, practicing it badly can hurt us. For this reason, from the RACC they remember some of the basic recommendations to ride a bicycle correctly.
To avoid pain and injury when riding a bike, you have to start with the posture when you sit down. On urban bikes, where the handlebar is higher than the saddle, we must keep our back more upright, while on sports bikes we can lean more.
The saddle must be placed horizontally, and we must also try to keep the hands in a straight line with the arm, without turning the wrists.
As for how we position ourselves on the pedals, the foot should not be centered; it is better if we support the tip area.
These tips prevent us from hurting ourselves and, if we follow them, what we will soon notice will be the positive effects of exercise.
The benefits of pedaling
Various reports, such as Cycling & Health, produced by the German Higher Sports School, show that pedaling prevents back pain and protects the joints.
The legs tone up quickly, because the quads and hamstrings are the muscles that work the most here. The lower back is also strengthened by tensing it to stabilize the trunk when bending over. With this, we reduce back pain caused by sedentary lifestyle and prevent the appearance of herniated discs. In addition, it is an activity with little impact on the knees, because our weight falls on the saddle, and the pedaling is a smooth cyclical movement.
Andreu Dalmau / EFE
Riding a bike can also influence our cardiovascular system. According to a study by the University of Glasgow, the risk of having a heart attack is reduced by almost half in people who regularly move by bicycle when compared to sedentary people. This occurs because when we exercise, we need our heart to pump blood harder to carry oxygen throughout the body. Little by little, our heart becomes stronger, blood vessels become more flexible, our heart rate improves, and we lower LDL cholesterol levels.
Even our immune system benefits from cycling on very different levels. To begin with, practicing this sport we produce phagocytes, cells that attack infectious bacteria.
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The observation of these immunological benefits has led to the study of the effects of this activity on more specific health problems.
For example, in the same report from the University of Glasgow, they noted that the chances of getting cancer also decreased considerably in those who cycled to work. In fact, exercise like this is often recommended to patients in treatment, with medical supervision to adjust the intensity and frequency to the needs of each person.
Other more recent research suggests that cycling, or regular physical activity, could be the key to slowing down the effects of aging on our immune systems. Scientists from the University of Birmingham concluded that cyclists maintain better muscle mass and strength over the years. As they explain, this occurs because older cyclists generate as many T cells as younger cyclists. This is surprising because, normally, from the age of 20 the production of these immune cells is reduced.
Overcome the fear of pedaling in traffic Three key tips
As we can see, riding a bicycle frequently can improve our quality of life in many ways. Although it is not uncommon for us to find it difficult to do so, especially if we live in more urban areas. Having to move through the center of the city, where so much traffic moves, can be intimidating; But if we want to be in shape, we must not stop trying.
The advice of the experts to leave this fear behind is usually summarized in three. On the one hand, using the right equipment, which makes us feel more protected and, incidentally, really protects us in the event of a fall. Second, knowing the regulations, because respecting them makes living with other vehicles safer. Thus, we will also understand what situations we may find ourselves in our daily trips.
And finally, something very important and that we sometimes overlook, being aware of our ability and dexterity on two wheels. If we need to practice or try shorter rides first, let’s do it. Better not neglect some aspects of our health to want to work others.