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It's fun to ride a bicycle

Published:Wednesday | January 6, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Kenneth Gardner - FITNESS CLUB

You can ride your bicycle as a means of transportation or for recreation or exercise. Cycling provides us with valuable exercise, does not add to air pollution, minimises traffic congestion, noise pollution and costs practically only the calories we will lose during the routine.

Bicycle prices range from affordable to very expensive for those who want a high-end equipment. However, we should ensure that the specifications of the bicycle fit our measurements. A simple, light-weight fixed wheel bicycle is more appropriate for commuting than the very ex-pensive ones that have a triple crank front gear system. Cycling can be made quite comfortable and efficient with the required foot-wear, gloves and clothing. Also, bicycles have numerous safety devices so that they can be used by persons of all ages.

Great for lower back

Cycling has been very helpful to persons who have arthritis, especially in the lower back or who suffer from other ailments associated with other types of physical activity. Interestingly, cycling on a stationary bicycle in the sitting position is an important exercise in rehabilitating knee and lower limb injuries.

Cycling in the seated position is a non-weighting - bearing activity and is very good for those who want to avoid extra stress on their joints. By cycling up and out of the saddle, our body weight will be transferred to our legs and this will strengthen them and our lower body.

Excessive cycling in the standing position could cause knee damage, especially if the bicycle is not the proper fit or the gear is too high. A lower gear for uphill riding protects our knees, even though our muscles may be well developed to handle a higher gear.

Get a comfortable saddle

If the saddle is uncomfortable, we could experience a number of discomforts, as well as muscle imbalance. If we ride too many miles without proper preparation, we are also likely to experience discomforts that could deter us from considering riding as a regular activity.

Cycling, like any other physical activity, should get off to a slow start and include rest days. If muscle pain is experienced, this is acceptable as a normal by-product of the exercise process. However, joint pain and numbness are symptoms of overuse injury.

I know there have been concerns about cycling and impotence as well as testicular cancer, but so far, there is no scientific evidence that supports that link. With a comfortable saddle position and good riding technique, you are good to go!

Dr Kenneth Gardner is an exercise physiologist at Holiday Hills Research Center in the United States; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com.