Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bike to Work 2010

Thursday it is again Bike to Work Day here in Silicon Valley, a time to celebrate and promote bicycle commuting and all things bike!

I love riding to work, for shopping, and for fun.  It provides good cardio-vascular benefit and just being outside is very healthful.  Then there's the whole 'green' thing- no oil consumed and no pollution created.  As a final benefit, a bike rider doesn't have to worry about paying for parking, or here in Palo Alto, exceeding the free two hour time limit in one space.

Bicycling does have limitations as a fitness method though.  For a commuter or casual rider these probably won't matter, but consider them if you ride extensively.

First is that bent-over posture most bikes put you into exacerbates the harmful position of sitting at a desk or in a car.  I wrote about that last year in Happy Bike to Work Day  Next, cycling works a limited number of large muscles in a single constrained pattern.  The synergists, or muscles that assist and stabilize the large prime mover muscles, don't get engaged, and neither does the rest of the body.

Finally there is the lack of weight-bearing stimulation(except for your butt.)  It is natural and essential for the body to support its own weight and be able to pick up and move other things against gravity.  Not only do the muscles and coordination needed for this get neglected on a bicycle, but the bones will not be strengthened the way they would if you were exercising while on your feet.  In the extreme, professional cyclists actually show decreased bone density from their sport.

These problems are even worse for stationary bikes.

I'm all for bicycling for commuting, pleasure, and exercise.  Just make sure that the exercise benefits of cycling are combined with the benefits of other weight-bearing and full-body challenging work.

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