Are you looking for a great form of exercise with a small carbon footprint? Then consider adding biking to your weekly fitness routine!
Biking is a great way to improve your health. In fact, because it’s not a weight-bearing activity, it is a great starter exercise that is easy on the joints. Plus, biking tones leg muscles, increases endurance and enhances lung capacity. This nearly life-long activity can be social, or a great family fitness outing enjoyed by both kids and adults.
Join a Club
Biking is fun! Many cycling clubs hold organized rides at varying levels of speed and difficulty, so get involved and gradually increase your pace and endurance. Weekend organized rides offer support stations with fluids and foods to fuel your body optimally during longer rides. Mountain biking also offers a chance to go "off-road" and enjoy nature.
Bike to Work
In addition to health benefits, there are environmental and financial perks to biking to and from work. A bicycle has very little environmental impact. Purchase a solid bike and it can last more than 10 years. Commuting via bike saves money on gasoline and parking, and may cut down on the time you spend in traffic. A morning ride also produces endorphins, so you may arrive to work with the pleasant buzz these natural chemicals produce. And you can even bike away a tough work day on the way home.
Safety Is Important
Be a safety-conscious commuter. Always wear a helmet, as this may help prevent some of the 85% of head injuries from bicycle accidents. Ride defensively and be aware of your surroundings. A white LED front light makes you visible when approaching intersections, and a red, blinking light in the back makes you visible to drivers approaching from behind. A fender provides protection from water splashing onto you from the rear tire.
Fuel Up for the Morning Commute
If you ride to work, consider splitting breakfast into two smaller sessions. Eating something "before the ride" and "after the ride" may help sustain energy and prevent hunger until lunch. Try these ideas:
Before the Ride
- ¾ cup high-fiber cereal
- 1 cup fat-free or low-fat milk
- ½ cup berries
After the Ride
- 1 banana
- 18 raw almonds
Fuel Up for a Longer Ride
If you're looking at a ride that's 90 minutes or longer, fuel up on carbohydrates two hours before the ride to power your muscles with energy. Keep the meal low in fat for easy digestion. Include whole grains, fruit and a modest amount of protein. For example:
- 1 cup cooked oatmeal
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 medium banana
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 1 egg
Don't Forget about Hydration
Water is important with any physical activity, including riding a bike. Drink a glass of water before hopping on your bike, and bring a water bottle with you to take frequent sips during your ride.
Monique Ryan, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, is a Chicago-based author and owner of Personal Nutrition Designs, LLC, which provides nutrition programs for athletes.
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