The Health Benefits of Cycling for Seniors
Even if you haven’t hopped on a bicycle since your school days, it’s never too late to start cycling again, even if you’re a senior adult!
“You never forget how to ride a bike” isn’t just a saying, it’s science. Learning to ride a bike is a procedural memory, which is a specific type of knowledge that is very easy for your brain to maintain in the long term (often, for the rest of your life).
Cycling is a great way to keep your mind and body active, without putting too much stress on your joints. Along with this, it’s a great way to build a community, improve your immune system, and simply have fun - no matter what age you are.
Here are our top five reasons why senior citizens should take up cycling.
1. Cycling Keeps Your Brain Healthy
Exercise doesn’t just keep your physical fitness up, it also sharpens your mind.
A 2019 study followed one hundred adults aged between 50 - 83 who cycled on ebikes and normal bicycles for thirty minutes at least three times per week to test the psychological results of exercising in an outdoor environment. They found that cognitive function, mental health, and well-being were all improved after regular cycling.
This is because when you work out, your brain becomes fully oxygenated. This then stimulates blood flow to the hippocampus, the part of your brain that’s responsible for memories and processing. Along with the immediate results, exercising is also shown to reduce tau (a protein linked to Alzheimer’s) in the brain.
Whether you’re worried about chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, or simply want to help keep your mind healthy, hopping on your bike a few times a week is the perfect brain booster.
2. Cycling is Easy on the Joints
As we get older, our joints begin to deteriorate. Movement helps to lubricate joints, but for many senior citizens, running (or even walking for prolonged periods) is out of the question.
While swimming is a great joint-friendly way to exercise, for many people it’s inaccessible as a year-round activity. Cycling, on the other hand, can be done by almost anyone, in any city, at any time of the year.
Cycling is consistently referred to as one of the best exercises for older people or those with mobility problems because it’s low-impact and gentle on the back, hips, knees, and ankles.
Gentle cycling is also shown to improve aerobic fitness and decrease pain associated with knee osteoarthritis - so, even if you aren’t able to cycle long distances or tackle steep inclines, you can still enjoy the many health benefits of cycling.
3. Cycling Creates a Community
Research shows that seniors who have an active social life are happier, healthier, more likely to live longer, and are 12% less likely to develop dementia.
After leaving the workforce, many older people find themselves with a smaller group of friends and acquaintances to engage with, which can lead to a sense of loneliness and boredom. Social isolation has been shown to come with a range of detrimental side effects, including high blood pressure, cognitive decline, and depression.
Cycling as part of an organised group with other senior citizens can provide motivation to get on your bike, as well as form a community with like-minded people over post-cycling coffee or breakfast. Cycling also empowers older people to join family cycling outings and keep up, especially if they choose an ebike over a regular bicycle.
Senior cycling groups exist in almost every US state, but if there isn’t one in your area you can always start by posting on a community group to find others who would be interested in joining you.
4. Make Your Ride More Comfortable with an eBike
In a way, ebikes (or electric bicycles) achieve for cycling what golf handicaps do so well for golf. Golf handicaps are a great equalizer, enabling golfers of different skill levels, experience, and genders to play together and even compete against each other.
eBikes are essentially a speed equalizer, allowing the rider to move at the same or a similar speed to others. They can achieve this without placing anyone under unnecessary pressure, and they remove the frustration a difference in speed can create.
eBikes are one of the fastest growing cycling trends in the US, with a 145% increase in sales between 2019 and 2020. But they aren’t just popular among commuters who live in bustling cities - they’re also an accessible way for senior citizens to increase the amount of exercise they get.
Because of the pedal assist feature in ebikes, they give your legs a break if you’re riding long distances or going uphill. They can also help seniors live a more independent life. For instance, carrying groceries on an ebike won’t make the ride more physically demanding due to the additional weight.
If you’re considering getting yourself an ebike instead of a bicycle, here are some things to look out for:
5. Cycling Improves Your Balance
According to research by the CDC, over 30 million older adults suffer from a fall every year, and 95% of hip fractures are caused by a fall. While some people consider being more susceptible to falling a natural part of aging, you can take steps to combat it.
Some of the reasons for an increased risk of falling include:
The most effective exercises you can do to prevent falling are those that increase strength in your legs and glutes - which cycling is excellent for. Keeping yourself and your bicycle upright while you ride helps your coordination, balance, and posture - all of which can help prevent falls.
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