Articles from February 2008

Cycling for exercise

Whether you choose to use an exercise bike or hit the trail on a real bike, cycling is a wonderful exercise to add to your fitness plan.  It is typically an aerobic exercise, allowing you to get your heart rate up into that target area, and it can be less stressful on your joints than running and traditional aerobics.

Cycling exercises your heart and has the same benefits as other aerobic exercises, including aiding in the prevention of osteoporosis and some cancers as well as mitigating the damage of diabetes and other chronic conditions.

If you plan to engage in cycling exercise out on the street, there are certain safety considerations you should make.  First of all, you should have a well-fitting helmet.  You should never even think about going cycling without a helmet.  Even if you are an extraordinary cyclist with a very low risk for being in an accident, you simply cannot take the chance that the cars who will be sharing the road with you will be that careful.

cycling 200x300 Cycling for exerciseThe other thing you need to make sure you have is the proper exercise gear.  For most women, investing in a great pair of cycling shorts with a padded rear makes the experience, whether out on a bike or when using a stationary exercise cycle, much more comfortable.

Finally, you should consider investing in cycling shoes.  Cycling shoes are specifically designed to make pedaling easier and safer; if you cannot afford a pair of cycling shoes, be sure you have a pair of cross-trainers.  As with any form of aerobic exercise, the more you can fit into your schedule the better, but shoot for a minimum of 20 minutes three times per week.

Cycling on an exercise bike is a great alternative for those who live in harsher climates; you can make the experience more fun by popping in a video – they even make videos for use when cycling that make it seem like you are out riding through the country side.  Watching a movie can also help make the time pass more quickly, as can listening to music.

If you do not have an exercise bike and are interested in purchasing one, be sure you go to the store and try several different bikes.  Cycling is great exercise, but not if you are in pain or you cannot comfortably adjust the bike so that you can reach the pedals.  For added muscle work, look for a bike that has moving handle bars and the ability to adjust the settings aso you can vary the degree of difficulty.

Outdoor Fitness

While some of us are perfectly happy just plugging in their MP3 player and hopping on a treadmill every day, many of us need more motivation to get moving.  Even if you start out with a treadmill or other exercise machine or use it when the weather is bad, you may find yourself lacking motivation at some point.  Outdoor workouts can make the idea of physical fitness much more inviting, especially if you find that you’re having trouble staying motivated otherwise.

Working on physical fitness outdoors gives you the advantage of fresh air, being out in your community, connecting with nature, and being able to do exercises that just can’t be replicated inside the house.  Things like biking, swimming, and running simply cannot be perfectly simulated on a machine, and while treadmills and elliptical machines are great for people in harsh climates, they just can’t match nature’s ability to provide challenge.

The advantage of outdoor physical fitness is that you can take advantage of the changing terrain available in nature that is not programmable on your treadmill.  You also have more variability, which keeps your body working at its hardest.  On a treadmill, you can only keep moving forward; outside you can try running laterally or run backwards, forcing your muscles to work in different ways.

Outdoor physical fitness is a great way to increase your mental fitness as well, since you literally have to walk away from everything waiting for you – email, work, demands of home and family.  It can really become YOUR time.  My suggestion?  Leave the cell phone at home, or at least turned off, while you are exercising.  Really make it a break from the routine of things.

Stop at a playground.  Those monkey bars aren’t just for kids to climb on.  Do some pull ups, stretch your muscles, and laugh and have fun.  It’s much more likely that you will burn more calories, exercise longer, and enjoy it more if you are interested in your surroundings and the exercise doesn’t just become the same old thing every day.

Outdoor physical fitness is simple.  It’s always there, even if you are traveling and often away from home.  Exercising outdoors doesn’t require anything more than a good pair of shoes  and some moisture-wicking exercise clothes.  There are no special pieces of equipment you have to buy, so you can start exercising even if you don’t have a budget for it – just walk out the front door and hit the ground running.