Thursday, January 28, 2010

Health Benefits of Biking Outweigh the Risks

Cycling provides efficient transportation while giving us exercise that is critical to human health. In The Cyclist's Manifesto, Robert Hurst writes that even when accounting for the extra danger of cycling as opposed to driving, the bicycle is still safer than a sedentary lifestyle.
A British researcher, Mayer Hillman, found the health benefits of bicycling to outweigh the much celebrated risks by twenty to one. Researchers studying a group of factory workers found that the regular bicyclists among them were as fit, on average, as non-bicycling factory workers who were ten years younger. What it comes down to is this: If you exercise, you're much less likely to get some horrible disease or have a heart attack and die. And bicycling is good exercise.
Kristin and I have exercised more over the last 20 days than we have in the past 6 months. We tried many different ways to get exercise, but we never stuck with any of them because they were outside the norm of our everyday lives. Exercising for a purpose makes a huge difference. Compare riding a bike on a dinner outing with running on a treadmill and going nowhere.

Hurst makes the argument that exercise also helps mental health. He quotes from Dr. Paul Dudley White, who cared for President Ike after his heart attack.
Physical fitness includes the health of the brain... physical labor is one of the best antidotes, perhaps the best, for emotional stress or mental fatigue.
So all you basket-cases out there can go to your local bike shop and find a little freedom from what ails you. I know several people who say that if they don't get any exercise during the week, depression is sure to follow so I guess this doc is right.

In conclusion, Hurst says,
The consequences of not exercising are far more dire than the consequences of bicycling in traffic. America has been going downhill. The citizens are working harder and longer, and off hours are more likely to be spent in front of a television or computer screen, scarfing Cheetos. Obesity is epidemic. Spare tires have grown in an inverse relationship to spare time. This presents a dilemma, but thankfully one with an easy solution. If you need to exercise, and you need to get around, why not do both at the same time.

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