Let’s Get Rolling: Cycle for health at every age
The Quad Cities region boasts some of the most beautiful walking and cycling trail systems in the Midwest with more than 100 miles of trails connecting communities, counties, and two states!
May is National Bicycle Month, and to share their love of cycling, Sports Medicine Surgeon, Dr. Andrew Bries, ORA Orthopedics, and Rock Valley Physical Therapist, Anna Perry, welcome you to “Bike School,” a four-part series designed to inspire everyone to take up cycling.
- Part 1: Cycling for Life: Cardio, Strength, and Community
- Part 2: Bike Shopping 101: Pick the right bike and accessories
- Part 3: Rules of the Road: Tips and resources for safe riding in the QC
- Part 4: Ride-Along Alternatives for Kids
Q: When did you discover your love for cycling?
As a child I rode a bike to soccer practice, piano lessons, and the pool like many other kids did. Then in college I rode to and from class at Iowa State because the parking tickets were too expensive to pay. As an adult, I started riding 10 years ago when I got bilateral plantar fasciitis from running the Bix and a leg of the Des Moines Marathon. When my feet hurt too much to run, I could stay active by cycling. The man who would become my husband also liked to ride, so it was something we shared.
I started riding a bike as a kid cruising around home. I then started again in college as a mode of transportation. Then during my residency I bought a bike that I could use on Northeast Ohio’s trail system keeping in mind that we had a little one on the way and I’d be pulling a trailer. I then discovered spinning as a fitness tool in my repertoire during my fellowship in South Carolina.
Q: What do you enjoy most about it?
I enjoy cycling because I get to cover more ground than by walking or running, but get to still enjoy the outdoor scenery, sounds, and smells. When I ride on my own, I can get in a rhythm and find my Zen. When I ride with my husband, we often ride a tandem, which means we can spend the time catching up. When we ride as a family, I get to share my love of the outdoors and activity with my daughter and son. We ride to the farmer’s market all by bike, and our daughter likes to point out the ducks and stop at the playgrounds along the way. We don’t have to worry about finding parking downtown, but we do have to get creative on how to get the eggs and tomatoes home!
I really enjoy biking because it allows me to be outside with my family doing something healthy. I’ve also had a couple of knee surgeries so it allows me to get good exercise without the pounding on my joints. The exercise component has prompted my participation in spinning classes.
Q: What is cycling so great for virtually any age or ability?
Owning a bicycle as a kid means freedom. They can ride to a friend’s house or school and not be dependent on parents to get them there. Multiple studies suggest kids who ride their bike to school are less likely to be overweight. As young adults, cycling is both healthy and inexpensive. Many young adults start racing to enjoy the competition. Before I had kids, I used to enjoy riding with my friends both on and off road.
Now that I have kids that is hard, but it’s the beauty of cycling that it carries through the stages of life. Parents and families can ride to have an activity all ages can participate in together. Riding with children is a great way adults in their 30’s-40’s can exercise and take their children with them.
As adults progress through their middle age, cycling is still an activity good for cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health. It is also sport that someone can pick up for the first time in their later years. Many cyclists ride together in groups that share their own ability and riding style, so it’s a great, lifelong sport!
As a Sports Medicine Surgeon, why do you recommend cycling?
Cycling is a great activity for all ages because it allows you to work or train within your own personal goals and ability. The low-impact nature is great for people who have developed some arthritis but still desire the competitive aspects of intense exercise. Cycling helps develop your cardiovascular system as well as strengthen muscle and bone without over stressing the joints. There is even some evidence that cycling can benefit those with neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease.
As a PT, why is biking a great idea?
For those with stiff or painful joints, cycling provides a freedom of movement that weight- bearing activity cannot. The forces from impact on a hard surface are much greater than the forces through the joint on a well-fit bicycle.
Bicycles can also be set up to adapt for things like having one leg longer than the other, or neck/back surgery, or weakness in a leg or arm caused by a neurological problem. Bicycling allows physical activity to groups of people that just don’t do well “on land.”
Regular physical activity also has been shown to increase production of our body’s natural pain killers in our brain, thus decreasing how much pain we experience. Maintaining flexibility, strength, and weight decreases our discomfort and improves how well we function with our daily activities.
Q: What do you hope readers learn from “Bike School?”
Dr. Bries and I were discussing how we both see people who would benefit from cycling, but just telling someone “you should ride a bike” isn’t really helpful. It can seem overwhelming and people don’t even know where to start. For some, it can be a total lifestyle change. So we wanted a way to show people how to get started. What do you need to know? What do you need to have? Where are trusted places to get information?
Anna makes good points. I really hope that after experiencing bike school, our patients will realize cycling is an effective and easily accessible way to help take control of their own health and wellness.
I agree. Cycling is just a great sport for all age groups. There are many health benefits for your muscles, joints, and heart but also it is a great way to spend time with your family and a convenient way to enjoy your town. Cycling isn’t all spandex and dark sunglasses. It is many shapes, ages, sizes. Cycling is fun and can be as relaxed or competitive as you want it to be!