To anyone working on getting fit and losing weight the words “long and lean” sound like magic. Well, that’s the typical build for a cyclist -- long and lean. Pedal power, in all its varieties (road bike, exercise bike, or spinning bike) offers a wide range of health benefits including:
•Excellent calorie burn. (Typically 400 calories an hour for an exercise bike, 700-800 for a road bike, and 1000 for a spinning bike.)
•Superior cardiovascular conditioning. Cycling builds stamina and increases endurance while lower resting heart rate. Generally individuals who cycle regularly have a resting heart rate in the mid to low 60s.
•Lower body toning. Cycling is especially good to build leg muscles and for women, whose problem areas are often the hips and thighs, the slimming effect can be almost magical.
Many people prefer to cycle outdoors because there’s really nothing to replace the freedom and adventure to be had exploring under your own foot power. Road bikes average $300-$400 for a correctly fitted, beginning model that includes:
•A comfortable saddle appropriate to the rider’s gender.
•A rack to carry a water bottle. (Drinking water is recommended every 20 minutes during a lengthy ride.)
•A ride computer that registers speed and distance traveled.
•Gears to assist with handling terrain.
•Appropriate illumination via reflectors and/or lights.
These items represent the bare minimum for safe and effective operation. A ride computer is especially important as cycling is, generally speaking, an exercise in which the rider competes against himself for better speed and longer distances traveled.
Where weight loss is the goal, it is also recommended that the cyclist use a heart monitor which includes a chest strap and a wrist unit that measures duration of exercise, time in “the zone” (your target heart rate to accomplish fat burning), average and maximum heart rate, and calories burned. One pound equals 3500 calories. If you manage a 500 calorie deficit (burn or expend more than you consume) you’ll lose approximately one pound per week.
For individuals who do not like to be out in the elements, an exercise bike can be a comfortable way to cycle daily in the comfort of your own home. Many riders watch television while they pedal and cycling DVDs are available to create the illusion that you are traveling through the hills of the California wine country or perhaps the French countryside. Recumbent exercise bikes with their bucket seats are especially comfortable. For some riders, the different angle at which the recumbent bike places the body is even more effective for body slimming and overall the position is easier for the back and the backside.
Spinning bikes are a special class of exercise bikes that have weighted flywheels to simulate, as closely as is possible, the feel of riding a road bike indoors. Generally, spinning is done at a gym in a class environment or, if done at home, to directions from a DVD. The workout involves “intervals” of intense riding where the cyclist is standing in the pedals and working at maximum output balanced by seated periods of a lesser cadence. Spinning is hardcore exercise with maximum calorie burn. If you have not been working out, it’s best to get moderately in shape and to check with your physician before beginning a spinning program.
Almost any time of day is appropriate for cycling. Depending on the climate in your area, it may be best to ride in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler. Some fitness experts recommend riding first thing in the morning before eating to stimulate the metabolism, while others suggest “fueling up” first. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid cycling just before bedtime as the stimulation will contribute to your insomnia. Regardless of when or where you choose to cycle, keep track of the numbers so you can monitor your improvement and work out at a pace and duration that will show effective results.
As an aerobic, fat burning exercise, cycling offers multiple health benefits. Upright exercise bikes can be purchase for as little as $150 while a recumbent will run from $300 to $600. These devices allow you to exercise regardless of the weather while road bikes get you out and about exploring and having fun while you get in shape. Spinning bikes can cost as much as $1500, so that’s an activity that will most likely send you to the gym. Regardless of the type of cycling you choose, you’ll begin to see results in a month or less, putting you well on the road to those lovely words -- long and lean.