There are several reasons why we take up cycling, but for the over 40s the main reason is to improve fitness and/or to lose weight. In my case the principal reason was, and remains, to keep fit. Joining the Anerley Bicycle Club gave me the opportunity to do this with a sociable group of like minded people. I also greatly enjoyed the club rides into the previously unseen beauties of our local countryside. What could be better on a sunny summer’s day?
But what is required to keep fit? How much cycling is necessary to reap the rewards? And is cycling all that is required to keep us fit?
There have been some changes in recent times, in the experts views on what is necessary for long term health and fitness.
It used to be that as a minimum, we were recommended to cycle at a moderate intensity for 150 minutes (2½ hours) a week. More commonly suggested as 30 minutes, five times a week. Moderate intensity being defined as cycling at an easy pace, level ground with few hills. Commuting to work by bike makes a perfect solution to meeting these weekly requirements.
More recent research suggests that for healthy adults, minimum exercise requirements can be met in less time but at a higher level of intensity. And I might add, achieve a higher level of fitness! So these alternative recommendations have now been added. For example, 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous cycling per week, OR an equivalent mix of moderate and vigorous intensity cycling (e.g. three periods during a week, made up of 2 x 30-minute vigorous rides, plus 1 x 30 minutes of easier cycling).
Vigorous intensity being defined as faster paced or hilly rides. For those with heart rate monitors, vigorous would be at circa 70% of maximum Heart Rate. However when climbing many of our local hills you will probably get your heart rate up to 80% or more!
A Sunday ride with Anerley B.C should meet the required weekly level of activity. The vigorous bit being amply provided by our local Surrey Hills and Kentish climbs!
Adding in a Tuesday club rides as I do, I expected that I should be able to keep fit well past the three score years and ten. Or so I thought.
There has however been another change to the recommendations, or rather an addition. This addition is of greater importance as the years go by because it helps to combat two conditions which are age related. These two conditions are osteoporosis and sarcopenia.
Osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease, you will all be familiar with, but sarcopenia may be new to you. Sarcopenia is a new term for age related loss of muscle mass, which starts around the time of your fortieth birthday. Sarcopenia cannot be avoided, but the effects can be delayed or reduced. Similarly, the risk of suffering from osteoporosis can be minimised, or the effects reduced. Both these conditions benefit from strength training, which is the additional recommendation of the experts.
They suggest that muscle-strengthening activities should be done 2 or more days a week. By this they mean working all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms), most of which gain minimal benefit from cycling. The strength training is additional to the aerobic (i.e. cycling) exercise.
With winter upon us, sitting in an armchair with a hot cup of tea may be preferable to a cuppa on a cold and wet Sunday bike ride. But your fitness will suffer. Or you could, like our Olympian cyclists and other top riders, try a bit of strength training to supplement your reduced miles in the saddle. Strength training is all the rage now, especially as an off season fitness booster. It is claimed to increase endurance and to work wonders on your ability to climb hills. Too good to be true? Or well worth a try?
You might consider another benefit. Strength training is reckoned to be the most time efficient way to lose weight. So no need to cut back on the turkey and Christmas pud during the upcoming festive season!
It could not have come at a more appropriate time! Don’t take my words of advice above, but if you are over 50, or approaching that age point , see what a top cycling coach has to say. This appeared only today and is an item entitled ” Off-Season Conditioning Past 50″, See http://www.roadbikerider.com/top