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Ride a Bike to Better Health

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By: John Viteritti, DO
May 6, 2013

May is National Bike Month, and as the weather gets warmer, it’s the perfect time to consider the benefits of bicycle riding for all members of your family.  Since bicycle racing is often conducted in stages, let’s take a look at the benefits of recreational bicycle riding in stages as well.

The first stage is the benefit to our health.  Bicycle riding, even on flat ground, is a great way to get an aerobic workout.  And having fun while exercising and including other people in your exercise routine – which is easy to do with bicycle riding – makes it easier to stick with your routine.

Bicycle riding can help burn 500 calories or more per hour, and according to the website bike-riding-guide.com, bicycle riding may help reduce the risk of many ailments like coronary heart disease.  It can also increase stamina and muscle tone by providing a complete leg workout, as well as strengthen the immune system and reduce resting heart rate and blood pressure.  And bicycle riding is not a weight-bearing exercise like running, so there are fewer opportunities for leg, ankle and joint injuries.

The second stage is the benefit to our families.  Many of us have fond childhood memories of days spent riding our bikes.  As adults, bicycle riding can still be fun, and it can be a relaxing way to spend time together with our friends and family.  Time away from the busy routine of our adult lives helps us to focus on one another and creates memories that younger family members will cherish when they are older.

Bicycle trails are a safe and fun way for families to ride together.  Northeastern and north central Pennsylvania has many bike trails to explore, some of which were former railroad lines.  These old railroad lines offer natural scenic beauty, as well as a view into this region’s railroad past.  Search online for “rails-to-trails” locations to find a trail near you.

When biking on a trail, be sure to stay on the designated pathways and be mindful of slick, muddy or changing trail conditions.  And no matter where you bike, always remember to wear a helmet and to make sure reflectors, brakes and other safety features of your bike are working properly.

The third stage is the benefit to our community.  Bicycle riding, especially to work or school, can help reduce road traffic, which means less gridlock and less pollution.  Avoiding the stress of commuter traffic by taking your bike can put you in a better mood before you start your work or school day.  And bicycling to work or school frees up parking spaces for those who do drive, and with fewer cars on the road, can also help reduce the chances of auto accidents.

At Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BCNEPA), we recognize that physical activity is one of the most important factors in a healthy lifestyle.  Physical activity can help in managing chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease and can help you maintain a healthy weight.  Through our Blue Health Solutions program, we offer our members the tools and support they need to incorporate the appropriate amount of physical activity into their lifestyle.  Bicycle riding can be a great way to include more physical activity in your exercise routine and spend more time with family and friends.

This May, consider taking a bicycle ride to enjoy all the benefits cycling has to offer.  Your body, mind and spirit will thank you!

Dr. John Viteritti, DO, is an emergency room physician and Medical Director for Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

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