Like all forms of exercise, cycling can help reduce stress and anxiety while also boosting your mood and self-esteem. It does so by influencing the release and absorption of chemicals in our brain that make us feel good. With age, our mental health can decline. Living in the middle of a pandemic and knowing that the elderly are more vulnerable to the virus only makes seniors more anxious. Hence, it’s more important than ever for them to take up cycling.
Heading out to your nearby park on a bicycle will not just get your blood pumping, it is also a great way to get out of your head. Moreover, cycling outdoors will give you a dose of vitamin D and fresh air, both of which will help improve your mood and reduce stress levels. However, keep in mind that you will have to make it a routine to reap the full benefits of cycling.
2. It can ward off age-related cognitive decline
Cycling can also improve your brain function. In a study that was published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, the researchers observed that people who spent at least 30 minutes on a stationary bicycle were able to remember things better and were also able to use reasoning and strategize post-workout.
This is important for seniors because research shows that with age, the risk of cognitive degenerative disease increases. But cycling regularly can help curb those age-related risks of cognitive decline.
3. It is a low impact, low-stress exercise
Any form of moderate exercise, even walking, can help increase blood flow by up to 15 percent. However, walking or jogging might not be the ideal option for all seniors, as it can be strenuous for the joints. Thankfully, cycling is a low-impact, low-stress form of aerobic activity that seniors can easily pursue.
When you cycle, your body will move in smooth motions, avoiding any undue stress on your joints. Just make sure that you move at a steady pace and don't cycle too fast. Make it a routine, and you'll be able to enjoy all the health benefits of cycling for years without harming your body.
4. It helps you shed weight
Weight gain can be a big issue for the elderly, as we tend to be less active with age. This puts seniors at risk of such health problems as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Cycling is a great way to keep your body active and shed some of that extra weight you might have put on. The more you cycle, the more calories you burn. Once you start covering longer distances, you will shed even more calories daily, which could really help you manage your weight.
For best results, try and add other low-impact exercises like swimming and yoga to your routine.
5. It helps slow down the aging process
As we grow older, we become less active. This speeds up the rate of muscle loss and results in faster aging. Studies show that cycling can increase your lifespan by reducing the risk of chronic disease. A study of 260,000 adults conducted in the UK showed that those who cycle had a 40% reduced their risk of death from all causes and cut down their risk of cancer and heart disease by 45%.
Another study conducted by the researchers at King’s College in London showed that cycling can not just slow down age-related muscle declines, but even reverse them. The researchers biopsied the vastus lateralis muscle – located on the lateral side of the thigh - in 125 male and female cyclists. All the study participants were highly active and between the ages 55 and 79 years old.
Having studied the muscle properties related to aerobic function and muscle power of the participants, the researchers have discovered that the cyclists showed less age-related muscle decline compared to those who led a largely sedentary lifestyle. Moreover, their muscle mass and strength stayed intact at the tissue level.
6. It improves your balance
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 28-35% of people aged over 65 suffer a fall each year. Seniors are at an increased risk of falling because of such conditions as heart disease, vision loss, and other illnesses.
Cycling is the perfect exercise for improving balance, as it helps the isolation of the glute muscles and stabilizes the core. This will help seniors get up from the chair and stop them from falling over. Riding a bike regularly also allows your brain to respond quickly to changes in surroundings. More importantly, it improves your coordination and posture which are essential for maintaining balance.
7. It’s kind on the knees and joints
As we mentioned above, cycling is a wonderful low-impact form of exercise that places very little pressure on most joints, in comparison to activities like running or jogging, which are high-impact and can strain the joints. Cycling is ideal for seniors who suffer from weak knees and joint issues. Cycling allows for smooth regular movements that strengthen knee muscles without putting too much strain on the joint. And stronger knee muscles mean a lesser chance of injury.
Cycling can be a great exercise for seniors who have had total knee replacement surgery. It can help improve mobility in the new knee. Consult your doctor or physical therapist to make sure that cycling is right for your specific condition.
8. It keeps your immune system young
Our immune system becomes more susceptible to infections as we get older. This primarily happens because the thymus – an organ that is crucial to the immune system and makes immune cells called T-cells – begins to shrink from the age of 20. However, cycling can rejuvenate the immune system, a study has found.
Scientists carried out tests on 125 long-distance cyclists aged 55 to 79 and found that their immune system was sturdy because they were producing as many T-cells as people in their 20s, compared to a group of inactive adults who were producing very few. This led the researchers to conclude that regular physical activities like cycling could keep your immune system young and protect you from infections.
Note: While senior bike riding is perfectly safe and has many health benefits, do consider your physical needs before you bring this activity into your daily routine. If needed, choose bikes that are specially designed for seniors or people with physical limitations. Also, it’s very important to remember to take the proper precautions every time you go out on your bike.
So, what are you waiting for? Hop on a bike and begin your first ride!
Share this article with those who would find it useful!