Thank goodness we never forget how to ride a bike. Besides being convenient and environmentally friendly, cycling is an excellent source of physical activity for many fitness levels. And, for those who never learned how to bike or have stopped, time to get on the saddle.
This Monday get those bike tires pumped with air and hit the road or trail. Why start on Monday? Because research shows that getting on a health track on the first day of the week improves the chance of repitition.
What’s healthy about cycling? It offers advantages that other forms of exercise don’t. Our team at the Move It Monday campaign counted several benefits.
Cycling is low-impact, which means less strain on the bones and joints, compared to other aerobic workouts like running or jogging.
Biking hits all of the major muscle groups from the waist down, strengthening your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, which are all important to improving balance, endurance, and the ability to stand and walk upstairs.
Biking also comes with a myriad of other health benefits including increased cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, joint mobility, as well as decreased stress levels. Plus all that cycling requires are bike, a helmet, and the open road.
Biking benefits the environment as well. Biking instead of using a car can be a useful step in reducing your carbon footprint and preserving the environment. Transportation accounts for more than half of the carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides emitted into the air, with the average U.S. car emitting a pound of carbon dioxide per mile from burning fuel.
By opting to bike, you are saving fossil fuel and reducing the number of cars on the road. Fewer cars relieve congestion and traffic and of a need for new parking lots and roadways, and more potential locations for public green spaces. Bicycles can use existing infrastructure, without demanding too much in terms of road construction and parking spaces. Bikes are also quiet, which means no honking or obnoxious noise pollution.
Biking around our neighborhoods gives us a greater appreciation for the surrounding natural beauty. By choosing to Move It Monday by biking, you are embracing the outdoors, appreciating the environment, all the while bettering your own health.
Basic Safety Guidelines
Zipping through city streets or country roads on your bike can be an exhilarating workout, but any cyclist—no matter their skill level and comfort—should adhere to some basic biking safety protocols.
The most important safety requirement is wearing a helmet that fits your head properly. Helmet sizes differ based on manufacturer, so the only real way to know how it fits is to put it on and adjust the straps.
You also want to make sure the bike you’re riding is the right size with functioning. Before your ride, make sure your shoelaces are tucked securely into your pant legs so that they don’t get tangled in the bike chain. It also helps to plan your route ahead of time. If driving on the road, choose areas with less traffic and slower speed limits; for leisurely rides, try to stick to a bike path.
You also want to do your best to avoid crashes; because, regardless of who is responsible, if a cyclist falls or collides with another vehicle, the cyclist is often the one who suffers physical consequences. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, most bicyclist deaths occur between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm in urban areas, so try to avoid riding during these times of day when visibility is limited. If you do decide to ride during dusk or the evening, use reflective gear and clothing as well as a flashing front and rear light.
Bicycles on the roadway have the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicles. Riding defensively is the best way to avoid an accident. Drive with the flow of traffic, obey street signs, signals, and road markings, and always assume that the other person or vehicle doesn’t see you. When biking, riders should be as predictable as possible, using hand signals and following the other rules of the road.
These basic guidelines will help ensure your Monday ride is a safe success.
Meghan Crowley is a senior program associate at the Move It Monday Initiative.