Cycling is a flexible, low-impact exercise. It can give you a way to fit some exercise into your daily life or provide a means to escape. It doesn’t take much to get started, an inexpensive entry-level road bike is all you need. but a little knowledge can make your experience great. Here are a few tips to make bicycling work for you.
How fast are you trying to lose that weight?
Maybe you want an intense cardio workout, or you might just need to stretch out and move a little. Pedal at the speed that feels right to you. After all, if you are going fast enough to stay upright, then you’re burning calories and you are on your way.
To get an idea of how many calories riding a bike uses, if you were to maintain 13 MPH for a half hour, depending on your weight you could expect to burn approximately 240 to 355 calories per half hour. With that said, if you could get in the habit of riding daily for 30 minutes a day around 13 MPH, based on a 30 day month, you could expect to use burn 7200 to 10500 every month.
The goal no matter how casual or how intensely you ride is that you need to do it consistently. The reason is consistent cycling will result in consistent weight loss. But no matter what, you should be riding at a pace that you enjoy, otherwise if you over do it, you are less likely to continue to ride because you are more likely to suffer from “burn out”.
Still, you might want to know how intense your workout is. You can calculate your maximum heart rate and measure your current heart rate and use ratios to figure out how hard your cardiovascular system is working. If you really want to know the numbers, The American Heart Association has a good step-by-step guide here.
The Mayo Clinic has an easier way to figure out how intensely you are working out. If you’re breathing a little fast, but not out of breath; if you can still talk, but not sing, then you are exercising at moderate intensity. If you start to sweat after just a few minutes, and your breath gets deep and rapid, then it’s vigorous exercise.
Each week, we need about a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or some combination of the two. Pedal yourself into an all-out sprint before dinner. In just over 30 minutes, you will have left some stress behind and fulfilled half of your weekly exercise requirement.
Maybe you can ride to work. If your commute is at least 15 minutes each way, you can get 150 minutes of moderate exercise just by going to work 5 days a week. If riding to work isn’t an option, take your bike to the store or to your friend’s house.
It doesn’t take much to shed a few pounds or lose a little weight. If we all took our bikes instead of our cars for just half of our everyday short trips (less than 2.5 miles), it would save lives and money each year and all be in shape. A team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that the drop in health risks from cardiovascular disease and pollution would far outweigh any dangers associated with cycling.
How Can You Stay Safe?
If you are concerned about trying to improve your health, safety should also be number one on your mind. Without the right gear, you could end up worse off than when you started. While it’s true that everything involves some degree of risk, a few precautions can help to keep you safe and making weight loss progress.
The most important safety tip is not to ride drunk. The US Department of Transportation reports that in almost a third of bicycle fatalities, the rider had blood alcohol content over 0.08. If you are too drunk to drive, then you are too drunk to ride. Call a taxi. Let them know that you have a bicycle, and they will probably send a van to take you both home.
Don’t be invisible. Cars are much bigger and are usually moving much faster than you. It is your responsibility to make sure that they can see you. Wear bright colors, especially at night. Make sure your bicycle has a headlight and reflectors, and consider installing blinking lights on the wheels.
Make your intentions known. If your bike doesn’t have turn signals, make sure to learn the correct hand signals. The MS Society Website has a great list of signals used in normal traffic as well as special signals for group rides.
Pay attention. Despite your best efforts, some motorists may not see you. So, always ride defensively. Avoid potential hazards. Don’t ride close to parked cars, you never know when someone may open a door, and take precautions near blind corners.
What Do You Need?
All you really need is a bicycle and a helmet. Choosing a bicycle doesn’t have to be hard. It really comes down to where you want to ride. Do you want to be in a race, on a trail, or around downtown? How about just cruising the neighborhood on a trike? How you plan to ride will determine what sort of bike you need. After you figure that out, just choose one that fits your height and budget.
Bicycles don’t have to be expensive. Many universities and some cities and even counties provide free bikes for checkout. I have found some great deals in the local classifieds and thrift stores. You may even be able to borrow one from a friend. Ask around. You would be surprised at how many people have an old bike in their basement or garage. You might even have one hidden away yourself.
You should invest in a good helmet. It doesn’t have to look like a helmet. You can disguise it as any number of stylish hats, but wearing one is a really good idea.
Some other things come in handy. A water bottle is nice, and it helps if your shoes fit securely. If you plan to commute, consider saddlebags. The waterproof varieties are great for groceries or paperwork. You can keep rain gear and a first-aid kit in there too.
But really, it’s all about you and the bike, and the helmet.
Where Do You Want to Ride?
So, where to? Will you explore city parks and neighborhoods or take to the highway in an exercise of endurance? No matter where you live, there’s a place for bicyclists. Use the rails to trails archive to find bicycle trails across the United States.
Check out your city website for bike routes and parks. Every year, more cities add bicycle lanes to their road systems.
Look at nearby public lands. National forests and state parks often have well-maintained bike trails. There may even be a dirt bike track nearby.
If you need more help finding a place to ride, check out this review of the top six route mapping websites.
What Are You Waiting For?
Bicycling for weight loss can change your life, but you don’t have to start big. Begin with a quick spin around the block. Commit to using your bike for just one errand a week. Ride the trails for half an hour. Once you get going, the possibilities will open up. There’s a whole world out there beyond your car windshield. Be a part of it.