Cycling, both outdoors and on a stationary bicycle, is a great cardiovascular exercise and a prefect alternative for those who don't like walking or jogging or who have orthopedic limitations to weight-bearing exercise. Cycling is good exercise for a variety of fitness levels. Stationary cycling or outdoor cycling on level ground works well for any one; more hilly terrain can provide a more intense workout for those already in better shape. Benefits include increased cardio respiratory (heart and lung) health, decreased body fat, decreased risk of heart disease, lower risk of injury, and improved low back muscle endurance.
- Adjust the height of the seat so that the leg that is on the bottom of the down stroke is almost but not quite completely extended when foot is on the pedal. If the seat is too low, your leg muscles will fatigue more easily, limiting your performance. Use toe clips, if available; they improve pedaling efficiency and exercise effectiveness.
- Sit comfortably on the bike seat with your back straight, either upright or leaning slightly forward. Rest your hands on top of the handle bars and relax your shoulders.
- The pedaling speed can vary depending on fitness level and comfort, but 70-100 revolutions per minute (rpm) usually provides a good workout. Always warm-up, stretch and cool-down during cycling session begin to stretch your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, and low back muscles (refer to the Flexibility Training component for the principles and techniques of stretching.) After your exercise session, cool down by pedaling at a very low resistance for 5-10 minutes and then stretch the same muscles as before.
- Be sure to breathe regularly throughout the exercise session.
- Always wear a proper-fitted helmet when cycling outdoors.
- It is also important to gradually increase the duration (the time your spend in each session) before you increase the intensity. That is, when beginning a cycling program, be more concerned with increasing the number of minutes of the exercise session before you increase the intensity, by increasing your speed or cycling hilly terrain. Interval training an effective method of gradually increasing your intensity.
Refer to the WF Cardiovascular Exercise content for the principles and guidelines of a safe and effective cardiovascular exercise program-including recommendations for duration, frequency, and intensity (and how to monitor if) of a program that is right for you and the goals you want to achieve.