What’s Your Biggest Health Improvement From Biking?

I picked up my mountain bike from my neighborhood bike mechanic this evening.  It had been shifting poorly, and he took care of it.  Getting the bike was important to me, because I’m still not riding my road bike.

In case you missed it, the front derailleur on my road bike broke over a week ago.  I haven’t received the replacement yet.  Maybe it’ll be all set in time for the weekend.

But as long as I have one bike in operating condition, that’s a good thing.  Because biking is good for me.

How do I know?  I look at the numbers.

I recently had my annual physical exam.  I have some health issues that I pay close attention to.  My cholesterol has been high as long as I can remember.  So has my blood pressure.

I could count on a typical blood pressure reading of around 151/90.  My cholesterol used to be as high as 250.

Just 36 hours after I rode in the Outlaw Trail 100 last month, my BP was 113/69.  A year or so ago, my doctor would have been happy to get it to around 135/85.  In fact, for awhile, that was our target.  Now, we’re shooting for much lower readings.  I’m normally in the 120/80 vicinity these days.

Is it all because of biking?

Not completely.  I’m on blood pressure medication, but at my last physical, the doc told me to stop taking one of the two types of pills I was on.  He says that while the meds brought the BP down, it’s the biking that is keeping it in the target zone.

He was also pleasantly surprised to note that my resting heart rate is 56.  That’s all due to biking.

Ditto the cholesterol.  I take medicine for that, too, but it’s the smallest dose made — 5 milligrams.  The doc says it might as well be a placebo.  He credits biking and diet for my recent big drop.  Oh, I forgot to mention — it’s now 158.

(I’m still not super careful about diet, but I do eat smaller portions than before, and I don’t snack as much.)

How about weight?

I don’t have a super weight-loss story to tell, but I have lost about 12 pounds from what it was at the beginning of the year.  One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get below 200 pounds.  I’ve done that, but I didn’t stay there.  Right now, I flirt with it.  By year’s end, I should be there permanently.  More gratifying to me than the weight loss is the girth loss. I’ve gone from pants with a 40-inch waist to pants with a 38-inch waist.  And depending upon the brand of pants, some of those 38s are fitting too loosely.

So that’s why I was glad to get one of my bikes in operating condition this week.  I’ll be out on it soon.  While the main reason I bike is for the fun of it, the health benefits can’t be ignored — especially at my age.

How about you?  What kind of health benefits have you enjoyed as a result of your biking?


Cycling and Heart Health

The news was stunning. A member of my bike club emailed word that a local man prominent in cycling circles had a massive heart attack while leading a morning group ride today. The news hit close to home, because while I didn’t know him well, he was the guy who taught the Road I course I took two years ago.

A passing motorist gave CPR, and paramedics got him to a hospital where he was put into an induced coma. One of the arteries to his heart had a 100 percent blockage, and doctors made a temporary opening to get blood to his heart.

It was eerily similar to what happened to Belgian cycling star Kim Kirchen during the Tour of Switzerland in June. He, too, had to go under an induced coma. Kirchen is now out of the hospital.

I thought cycling was supposed to make us invincible.

It turns out that endurance athletes might face serious heart risks of their own — partly because they’re in better shape.  As an article on Active.com by Dr. John Mandrola points out, cyclists are more likely to have a 20 percent blockage than the 80 percent blockage often suffered by couch potatoes. But that 20 percent blockage is more likely to lead to a heart attack, because it is more likely to cause blood to clot on it.

Hm. Never knew that. Okay, I’ve never really paid much attention to food. In fact, my wife often complains that I eat like a teenager.

That’s about to change. I’ve enjoyed the effects of losing some weight lately; but that’s stalled out for the time being. Time to get back on track. Time to notice what I put in my body. Time to get serious about total health, not just exercise. And time to recognize that while I’m relatively healthy, I am not invincible.