By Josh Owen
We live in one of the best areas in the world for riding bikes. Beautiful scenery abounds in our beautiful western North Carolina mountains – the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest and Dupont State Forest are just a few of the special gems for cycling we’re fortunate to have close by. There are an estimated 40,800 people who visit our area to bike along the roadways and explore our many miles of trails.
Whether hitting the off-road terrain or just riding around your neighborhood streets – riding a bike is a wonderful way to improve your health while having fun. It can be a great fitness routine for all ages, and something families and friends can do together.
There are many ways biking can improve your health. Biking on a regular basis has been shown to protect against a variety of health-related issues like obesity and diabetes. Also, since biking is a low-impact form of exercise, it can be gentler on your back and joints than other activities.
Been a while since you’ve been on a bike?
Beginning to ride a bike on a regular basis (or picking it back for the first time in many years) needs to be a gradual process, so that you prevent injuries. While crashes and falls are the most obvious concerns, one of the most common bicycle injuries occurs when people begin suddenly riding faster, longer or harder than they are accustomed to. Your body could not be used to the repetitive motions, and the demands on your connective tissues can cause muscle or joint pain.
To prevent an overuse injury, start with shorter distances and try increasing your riding mileage or time 20 to 25 percent each week until you reach your mileage goal. Also, make sure your bike is properly fitted specifically for your height and size before heading out on the road or trail. Cycling requires repetitive motions that can lead to discomfort, fatigue or injury on a poorly fitted bike. If you’re not sure if your bike is fitted properly, check out the CarePartners Bike Fit program.
Get on your bikes and ride!
Once you have the right bike, you’ll also need to find the right helmet. This important piece of safety equipment can save your life in the event of a crash or collision. Also, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor to ensure you are healthy enough to start any new form of exercise.
Having a fun and safe bike trip can be an excellent way to get outside and discover beautiful western North Carolina.
Josh Owen, MHS, LAT, ATC, ITAT, PRT, is an Athletic Trainer with Mission Sports Medicine.