Cycling helps maintain fitness for active seniors

As the baby-boomer generation reaches older age, the number of athletes over the age of 65 will continue to grow.  Among the sports most attractive to seniors who wish to remain active is cycling.

Riding a bicycle is among the earliest activities children learn. It helps to develop agility and coordination through the use of training devices and eventually two wheels.  As adults grow older, these same skills deteriorate.

Specifically, the cerebellum is the principal area of the brain responsible for coordinating movement.  A network of nerve cells that begins in the limbs and extends through the spinal cord to the brain carries crucial information to the cerebellum.  That information is shared with other regions of the brain resulting in balance.

Through activities like cycling, yoga, tai chi and ballroom dancing, humans are able to refresh these pathways.  Older athletes participating in any sport are faced with physical challenges.

Cardiovascular fitness is an issue that should be addressed before beginning any sports activity.  Every athlete should discuss the new activity with their personal physician although many who are older than age 45 should consider a stress test before participation.

Musculoskeletal problems are a consideration for every master-level athlete.  Muscle, tendon and ligamentous injuries are common but in many cases avoidable through adequate pre-activity stretching.  When cycling, using low-resistance gears for the first several miles and avoiding the temptation to push against high-resistance may avoid injury.

Urogenital issues including genital numbness, erectile dysfunction and elevations of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) are related to hours spent on the bicycle saddle. Proper fitting for this essential part of a bicycle should be carried out with the help of a bicycle sales expert.

Bicycling may be a way back to a healthier and longer life but based on years of data from trauma centers around the country, it may all end in tragedy unless a helmet is worn.