Exercising and saving gas is as easy as riding a bike

Riding a bicycle in spring brings back fond childhood memories. Learning to bike ride is a satisfying accomplishment. Many people can recall receiving their first adult bike. Today, this simple activity has taken on new meaning. It now carries significant fitness, environmental, and economic implications.

Cycling is an outstanding physical activity. It requires the use of large lower extremity muscle groups as well as core muscle training for the low back and hips. Cycling can be both an aerobic and anaerobic activity, depending on the terrain. When riding in a group, it is also a great way to socialize with others.

Over the course of the past 20 years, cycling equipment has changed dramatically. There are now many varieties of bicycles including road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, tandems, and folding bikes. A hybrid bicycle is a combination of a road bike and a mountain bike. It is currently the most popular due to light weight, versatility, and comfort.

Tom Girard is the retail manager of Zane’s Cycles in Branford, Conn. Worldwide, they are the largest dealer of Trek Bicycles. Girard notes that the latest trend in sales has been toward commuter bikes similar to those sold for many years in Europe. These are hybrids with fenders and safety lights. Girard believes this is a reaction to increasing gas prices and concerns about air pollution.

In an effort to encourage more bicycle commuting, municipalities are incorporating bike lanes into urban plans.

Once a rarity, helmets are now commonly used and have cut back on the number of head injuries among cyclists. The latest bicycle seats are gel-padded and designed to protect the prostate in men, making long rides more comfortable.

Many fundraising efforts now involve participants who cycle long distances for the promise of pledges. Some examples are the “MS Ride” and “Bike New York.” In next week’s column, I will report on how to adequately prepare for these long distance cycling journeys to make them most enjoyable.

Anthony G. Alessi, MD, is Chief of Neurology at The William W. Backus Hospital and in private practice at NeuroDiagnostics, LLC, in Norwich. E-mail him at aalessi@wwbh.org. If you wish to learn more about this column or other sports health topics – listen to the podcast or go to the Healthy Sports blog at www.backushospital.org.

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