Are Stationary Bikes Good for Seniors?

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Are Stationary Bikes Good for Seniors

Stationary or indoor biking is a great activity for seniors to take up as they start getting time on their hands. Some carry it as a hobby throughout their lives and it’s important to not get sloppy as time goes by.

As the founder of the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center says:

“Cycling is something you can enjoy no matter what your age. It is truly as close as we can get to a lifelong sport…” “Even if you can’t walk or hobble, you can still ride a bike.”

Biking helps your cardio, your muscle tone, your moods, and your overall physiology. It’s a great way to get through to that weekly workout goal.

Are Stationary Bikes Good for Seniors?

Let’s look at a few Benefits of biking for seniors.

Stationary Bikes are a Low Impact Exercise

cycling benefits for seniors

The single most beneficial point of biking in this context is its low-impact, low-stress nature. A lot of exercises that are routine for people that workout are just too impactful on the joints, the bones, or the muscles to be kept on doing later in the years. That makes exercises like running unsuitable to keep on doing at the same intensity as you get older. As the body gets around to a position where it’s less suited for the intense, ‘push-your-limits’ sort of workouts, and requires more time to bounce back after workouts, the need for a more suitable replacement comes up.

That need can be filled up easily by exercise bikes/ stationary bikes. In fact, the first ancestor of the stationary bike called the ‘Gymnasticon’, invented by Francis Lowndes in 1796, was meant for medical/orthopaedic therapeutic purposes.

Indoor biking or biking, in general, is a physiologically and physically preferred route towards fitness since it’s such a low-impact exercise. But what is a “low-impact exercise”?

Well, look at it like this. There are two people going alongside each other in the park. One is running and the other is cycling. The person that’s running is doing much more physical work than the person that’s running. A big reason behind why that is… is friction and gravity. You see, when someone’s running, they have to work against gravity in each tread, lifting their bodies off the ground and hurling it forward until gravity overcomes them again and they have to put their foot back down to absorb that overcoming force and start pushing against it again. So in each and every tread, their bodies have to absorb the weight of landing after a small lift-off, and then when they’re done absorbing that, they have to push back against gravity, hurling themselves forwards and upwards again. That puts the joints (like the knee joint, the hip joint, and the ones in the back) and the bones (like the femur, tibia, fibula, etc.) under a considerable amount of force, making them subject to impact.

Now let’s look at the person that’s cycling, the first thing we may notice is that he isn’t having to fight against friction as much as the person that’s running since he’s on a pair of nice and round wheels. The other thing he isn’t having to do is hurling his weight forward with as much intensity as the guy that’s running, in direct opposition to the force of gravity. His body doesn’t have to absorb the whole weight of his being with every tread. And so his bones don’t have that sort of repetitive impact to absorb and neither do his joints. Considering such things might seem trivial to a young person that doesn’t have to worry about his declining bone density or the danger of damaging joints or tendons that can take a long long time to heal. But for people that have gotten to the latter part of their lives, details like this carry a ton of weight and have to be taken into account.

That’s why exercises like biking, especially stationary biking, are the preferred route for people with orthopaedic or muscular injuries or weak bodies since this kind of exercise, while it properly exercises the muscles, it doesn’t put the body under the same amount of stress.

 

Cardio and prevention of related diseases:

Cardio Helps Prevent Diseases

It’s not hard to see why cardio would be as important as it is these days. According to data available at the website of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

 “Heart disease and cancer have been the two leading causes of death for persons 65 years of age and older for the past two decades, accounting for nearly a million deaths in 2002. Nearly one-third of all deaths among older persons were due to heart disease, including heart attacks and chronic ischemic heart disease.

Cancer accounted for about one-fifth of all deaths in that age group.

The third leading cause of death for older persons is stroke or cerebrovascular disease, followed

by chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRD), which include chronic bronchitis, emphysema,

asthma, and other chronic lower respiratory diseases.”

 And as per the latest data published in a report under the title “National Vital Statistics Reports” on the CDC’s website in June 2019, the leading cause of death in the US as per the final data of 2017 was “Diseases of the Heart” followed by “chronic lower respiratory diseases” or CRLD and  “cerebrovascular diseases” on number 4 and 5.

These statistics, in part, are owed to the lifestyles that some people have started to lean towards in the past decades. To not fall into the ever-expanding hole of heart diseases, people on the older part of the age spectrum have to stay vigilant in regards to their heart health.

Biking provides a great way to do just that. You don’t even have to go anywhere for using stationary bikes. You can just hop on whenever you feel like it to get the blood pumping again. As mentioned above, it’s a low-impact exercise so unlike exercises like running, it does not run the chance of damaging the body in exchange for achieving moderate-intensity heart rates. A moderate intensity heart rate is defined by the CDC as:

For moderate-intensity physical activity, your target heart rate should be between 64% and 76%1,2 of your maximum heart rate. ”

where your maximum heart rate= 220 – your age in years

 

Obesity and Weight Loss:

Cycling can be a great way to start getting back in shape. If you can manage to get on the bike at least 150 minutes a week for moderate-intensity workouts or 75 minutes a week for vigorous-intensity workouts, you have much better chances of getting into shape. Combine that routine with a few dietary restrictions and you can improve your chances of avoiding heart-related diseases.

The table below shows estimated calories burnt by a person weighing 155 lbs. at different levels of intensity when done for 30 minutes every day:

 

Resistance/

Intensity level

Very Low Low Moderate Intense
Calories burned (Call) 106 195 245 366

 

A research carried out in Korea revealed that people who stepped-down their weekly activity levels over the period of a year or two were 27% more likely to get cardiovascular problems while those who stepped up their workout routines from being inactive to getting active between a year or two had an 11% chance to avoid such diseases.

So whether you’ve been active your whole life and are starting to get slow, or have never been that active, it’s no time to be sluggish. You have to step up to fight the odds because they certainly tend to lean the wrong way.

 

Tips for better and safer biking:

Let’s look at a few helpful tips for safer biking for seniors.

benefits of cycling for seniors

Get the proper gear and technique:

Getting the proper gear helps you cycle better and longer. If you’ve got a shoe that’s just pinching you all the time, it becomes painful and annoying which will ultimately discourage you from cycling overall which can lead to having a tougher time at cycling than optimal. Also, try and learn the proper cycling motion so that you don’t develop any hitches even due to such a low-impact exercise.

Start slow:

If you’re new to biking, take it slow. Stationary bikes have various levels of resistance that you can try before even trying to go at it full swing. Develop a gradient of exertion that you can work through as you go through your regime.

Bike with friends:

It can be hard to push yourself to get up and start pedaling. That can be made a lot easier if you have a few friends around to lend you that extra push that you may need now and then. You can bike at gyms or if you’re comfortable with doing it at home, there is the option of getting a smart bike that can connect to specialized apps and networks to let you connect with people around you. It can be tricky to learn how to operate smart stationary bikes that can connect to live classes and races, etc. But if you get the hang of it, it can open you up to a whole new chapter of better workouts.

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