Monday, December 13, 2010

Health Care and Bicycle Safety

When you were a kid, did you ride your bicycle for hours on end all over town? If you grew up in a more rural area, was your bike your mode of transportation to school or a host of other great locations? Did your Mom or Dad help you get started when you went you were ready to take off the training wheels? Did you ever have a major crash on your bicycle? What did you do--get back on or just never ride again? What about going out for rides with your friends? How many great experiences did you have when you were a kid and your bike was the best thing you owned?
 
Learning to ride a bicycle is one of the greatest lessons anyone can learn, especially as a child. The memories you make last forever, and they often remind you of much simpler, care free times. Rolling down the road on your Schwinn or any other type of bike with the wind blowing your hair, and the warm breezes during Spring, Summer, or Fall when the riding is best, are times that are worth repeating even as adults. Lots of people ride bikes for lots of different reasons, according to About.com. Here are the top five reasons why you should be out there too.

1. For Your Body--Riding a bike offers many health benefits. Here are just a few:
•Increased cardiovascular fitness.
•Increased strength.
•Increased balance and flexibility.
•Increased endurance and stamina.
•Increased calories burned.
It can be done by people of all ages, from childhood up even through the adult years when achy joints don't allow for more stressful exercise like jogging.

2. For Your State of Mind--Riding a bike is a proven stress releaser. Regardless if you are riding purely for pleasure or for a specific purpose, you will arrive at your destination feeling relaxed, energized and happier about the world and yourself. Plus, being out on your bike is just flat-out fun. The more time you spend on two wheels, the harder it is to take yourself too seriously.

3. For Your Community--Being out on your bike is good for the people around you as well. You are able to go the places you want to go and yet put one less car on the road. You don’t bring with you the noise that a car generates and are actually able to interaction with people as you move. From your bike, you can wave to a neighbor, say hi to a kid, smell someone’s dinner cooking and be a warm and friendly human presence on the streets. Also, not insignificant: operating a bicycling does not harm the environment. There is no polluting exhaust released, no oil or gas consumed. And the energy and materials used to manufacture one automobile could be used to created a hundred bikes.

4. For Convenience--There is an undeniable convenience factor you’ll discover when riding a bike. Front row parking spaces are guaranteed no matter where you go. Traffic jams are also irrelevant. Though cars will certainly make better time on long trips, you’ll find for many short trips or through heavy traffic, you can travel just as fast or faster on your bike. Have you ever been to a massive festival or concert in a park somewhere, the type of event that draws so many people that just getting there is a problem? Going in on a bike is a perfect solution. Zip in, zip out. You don’t have to get there hours early to get a parking spot or else face parking miles away from the event. And you won’t have to wait hours in traffic to get out once it’s over. 

5. For Your Pocketbook--It costs 30 cents or more per mile to operate a car, depending on the vehicle. This is based on expenses like gas, oil, maintenance, etc., that go up when you drive more. This figure doesn’t include the hidden costs of vehicle ownership like depreciation, taxes, and insurance. These factors make the actual per mile cost to operate a car much higher. When you start multiplying cost per mile to operate a car by the distance you ride, you can easily calculate how much money you save by riding a bike. And if you would otherwise have to pay for parking, tolls, and the like, don’t forget to factor that in too. It can add up quickly.

According to IslandSportShop.com, there are definite health and economic benefits with bicycle riding. For example: If a person weighs about 220, and rides a bicycle 30 minutes one way in commuting to work, he could burn 1056 calories in the hour he spends commuting to and from work. That would work out to 5280 calories per week. With a diet designed to simply maintain your weight, you could lose 1.5 pounds per week without any serious dieting. You will have to adjust your calorie intake until it just meets your daily requirements, and you should consult your physician for help in this area, and to insure you are fit enough for the riding you want to do. You will find that you feel better and better as you exercise more, and you will find that cycling is one of the more enjoyable forms of exercise. If you can also reduce your commuting costs, the benefit of bicycling may produce an economic benefit as well.

There is, however, a potential downside to biking, according to MedicineNet.com; sitting on the bicycle seat may result in the compression of nerves and blood vessels of the vulnerable area of the body called the perineum. The perineum is the area between the anus and the base of the penis in males and between the anus and the vagina in females; it contains both blood vessels and nerves. Compression of the perineum can lead to nerve damage, swelling, artery insufficiency (lack of blood flow through the vessel), and even occlusion (blockage) of blood vessels, which in turn can lead to temporary or permanent groin numbness, tingling sensations, decreased penile blood supply, erectile dysfunction (impotence), decreased orgasm sensitivity, and pain. The interaction between the bicycle seat (saddle) and the perineum is the culprit in all cases of perineal symptoms in cyclists. The interaction is dependent on the vertical (downward) and shear (backward) force of the perineum on the saddle, the weight of the rider, the height and angle between the saddle and the handlebars, the saddle tilt angle, and the shape of the saddle. For much more detailed information about groin numbness, check out this website: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=84072.

According to AssociatedContent.com, the overall health benefits of bike riding are very positive in spite of certain health concerns. Cycling offers one of the best cardiovascular workouts you can find. Because you are seated and not bearing your weight as you cycle, you can get in a "zone" on a bike and ride for very long periods of time compared to running, where you typically get tired after a relatively short time. This ability to maintain your heart rate for a long time is a major benefit of riding a bike. Doctors will tell you that in order to get a benefit from exercise, you need to maintain your heart rate at an elevated level for at least 20 minutes. Many runners, especially beginners, may find this difficult or at least uncomfortable. However, on a bike this is a very easy goal. Three and four hour rides at a low intensity level are quite simple, even for a beginner cyclist.


Cycling also offers a great way to exercise without exposing your relatively fragile joints to severe impact such as you get while running, according to Associated Content. Over time this can greatly extend your ability to maintain your exercise program. There is some risk to your knees while cycling, however if you are properly fit on your bike and are using your gears correctly this is typically not a problem. Many of the chronic injuries runners have to deal with are similar in cycling, but they happen at a much lower rate due to the low impact nature of riding a bike. Many cyclists also have problems with their backs, especially those who are riding more aggressive "racing" bikes where the rider in is a very forward and aerodynamic position. The key to avoiding this type of problem is to make stretching a regular part of your workout routine. Staying flexible has many health advantages, and is very important while riding a bike. Also available to cyclist with bad backs are recumbent bikes. Known as "bents" in the cycling word, these bikes are low to the ground and have a seat with a back, much like sitting in a sports car. They can be a lot of fun to ride and offer quite a different cycling experience from the more common upright bikes. Recumbent bikes are great for people with back problems as your back is supported during your ride. They are also very stable and hard to fall off of, but they are lower to the ground and are less visible to traffic around you. A good exercise routine is a vital aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In America today we are facing increasing rates of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, all of which are made worse if you don't keep fit. Riding a bike can be a fantastic way to stay in shape and lower your risk of significant health problems.

Be careful. Bike riding is a lot of fun, but accidents happen. The safest way to use your bike is for transportation, not play. Every year, about 300,000 children go to the emergency department because of bike injuries, and at least 10,000 kids have injuries that require a few days in the hospital. Some of these injuries are so serious that children die, usually from head injuries, according to KidsHealth.org. A head injury can mean brain injury. That's why it's so important to wear your bike helmet. Wearing one doesn't mean you can be reckless, but a helmet will provide some protection for your face, head, and brain in case you fall down. For great info on safety tips when riding bicycles, especially for children, spend time reading the info at this site: http://kidshealth.org/kid/watch/out/bike_safety.html . Lots of great content for safety. Even more info can be found at http://www.familyfunshop.com/familybikeride.htm.

Family bike rides can be great fun for your whole family. They provide recreation and exercise at the same time. With attention to safety and the addition of a few nice surprises, your bike rides will be happily anticipated and fondly remembered. Whether alone or in a group, bicycle riding offers many health benefits.
Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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