Few people would dispute that cycling is a good form of exercise, but the huge benefits it can have on our physical and mental health are probably less well known. Firstly, cycling is a form of cardiovascular exercise, which is good for your heart and is one of the ways in which cycling reduces the risk of age-related disease. Also, studies are increasingly bringing to light the positive impact cycling has on emotional well being and cognitive function. In this way, cycling is an extremely helpful activity for people of all ages, but particularly senior citizens.
The age-defying power of cycling
Not only is cycling an affordable way of staying healthy, but recent studies in the Journal of Physiology have revealed that people who cycle regularly in adulthood have the immune systems of people decades younger than themselves. This was evident in the fact that the senior participants of the study had the same number of T-cells (immune cells) than the younger participants. With a strong immune system, these people can stave off illness and disease in later life. To quote Professor Janet Lord, “Our findings debunk the assumption that ageing automatically makes us frail.”
Cycling can help people with Parkinson’s
Significantly, cycling has been shown to reduce symptoms of patients with Parkinson’s Disease – particularly tandem cycling with an able-bodied person. The latter is thought to be down to the fact that someone with Parkinson’s is forced to pedal faster by the person pedaling without the disease, increasing the amount of information going to the brain. This prompts the release of proteins in the brain responsible for movement and cognitive function. Thus, being forced to pedal faster than their voluntary rate, Parkinson’s patients can gain improved control in their movements and clearer thinking.
Cycling can easily be fit into your day-to-day life
Another advantage of cycling is that it can be incorporated into daily activities to great effect. It is recommended that seniors do 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise over the course of a week. This does not have to be in long, unbroken sessions; in fact, several shorter cycles are better for building stamina. It may sound like a lot to fit in, but it is easier than you might think. Try to use your bicycle instead of taking the bus or car whenever possible. For example, cycle to the shops or to local appointments. If you still work, cycle for at least some of the route – even if just to the train station. This will all help to build overall body strength, control your weight and boost your general mood.
You’re never too old to cycle
As we get older, it can be easy to forget to exercise or to prioritize hobbies or other commitments. However, staying as active as possible is all the more important with age. Luckily, cycling is accessible and relatively simple to fit into daily life. What is more, the significant benefits it provides for our physical and emotional health make it an ideal source of exercise for seniors.
By Jess Walter