Is Bike Riding Still an Option for Those Over 60?
If you’ve ever been asked this question, you know the answer is a resounding YES. For many of us, it’s difficult to imagine our parents on a bicycle in their 60s, 70s and even 80s. Luckily, things have changed.
We lead much more physically active lifestyles than our parents in their senior years. Now it’s quite common to see 70- and 80-year-olds on bicycles and tricycles. And they look fabulous!
Why Cycling Is a Great Sport for Seniors
Bike riding is a great option for seniors for so many reasons. First, it’s low-impact so it’s easier on our joints than many other sports, e.g., running. Cycling is an excellent cardiovascular exercise as it gets our heart rates pumping and burns those calories, thus improving our overall fitness level.
In addition to the many health benefits, cycling can also reduce our physiological age.
A New York Times article referencing a 2015 British study of recreational bicyclists ages 55 to 79 stated that “… the cyclists did not show their age. On almost all measures, their physical functioning remained fairly stable across the decades and was much closer to that of young adults than of people their age.”
An AARP article reports: “evidence is mounting that moderate physical activity such as biking can prevent a host of ailments – including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and colon cancer – in people of all ages by at least 40 percent.”
While we were busy raising families and building careers, many of us left our old bikes in garages or attics rusting away. The good news is that, in most cases, it’s not too late to get started again.
How to Get Back on the Saddle
You may want to first check with your healthcare professional to see if bike riding is a good fit for you. If it’s a safe option, why not give it a go again?
Many seniors who are bike riding today had not ridden for 15 or 20 years. In fact, I ride with many cyclists who did not start riding again until they retired to Florida.
Another group I occasionally ride with consists of 70- and 80-year-olds who ride 40 miles three times a week, stopping along the way for breakfast. One woman I recently interviewed, Sylvia Halpern, did not start cycling again until age 46 and now tours the country solo on her trike.
Once you pull your old bicycle out again, you’ll want to get it checked by your local bike shop to see if it’s salvageable. You want your bike to be safe and in excellent working condition before riding. If your bike is quite old, you may want to rent a bike instead to see how you feel riding again.
Today, there are many new bike options available. Bicycles now are much lighter in weight, handle better and have many more gears to make pedaling easier. Recumbent bikes and trikes are other options for you.
I’m a huge fan of recumbent trikes and find them to be the safest and most comfortable option out there. Electric-assist bikes and trikes may also be an option if you want to ride longer distances or ease into riding.
4 Tips When Starting Cycling
Proper Bike Fit
A proper bike or trike fit is essential. Having your bike properly fit for you can make all the difference between a pain-free ride and injuries.
Getting a proper bike fit should be done at your local bike shop if possible. The correct positioning of your seat, knees and feet is critical to prevent knee pain and injury. Be sure to take the time necessary for this important step.
Start Out Slowly
If you haven’t ridden for a while, take it slow. Even if it feels fine, keep your first few rides short and easy. You’ll be working muscles you haven’t used in a while, and you may end up feeling the effect of this a day or two later.
Make sure to do a few stretches after your ride to help prevent muscle tightening.
Stay Hydrated and Energized
Make sure to bring a water bottle or two, and drink fluids before, during and after your ride to stay hydrated. Have a healthy snack before you ride and again on the ride if you need additional energy. Protein bars, bananas and nuts are excellent snacks to pack for your bike ride.
Ride on a bike trail if possible to avoid automobile traffic and road distractions. Follow the trail rules to stay safe by keeping the correct side of the trail, and pull off to the side if you need to stop. See my tips that will keep you safer on public trails.
Wear bright clothing and always wear a bike helmet. If you’re riding a recumbent trike, be sure you have a flag and lights for visibility and a safe foot restraint system.
Additional Cycling Benefits
Bike riding is a great way to exercise, have fun and meet new people. There are many cycling groups you can check out or have a few friends join you for a bike ride. Cycling can be a great social experience as well as an excellent workout. It can also improve your mood and even help alleviate depression.
With a bit of practice and training, you’ll be able to ride with your grandchildren and surprise them with how fit their grandparents are.
What are your bike riding experiences? Did you give up bike riding? Have you ever considered bike riding again in your 60s? Please join the conversation and share why you do or do not ride a bike as a mature woman.