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  1. #1
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    Will cycling keep me healthy?

    Ok, I'm 56. Ride a little every day (10-30 miles), a lot on most weekends (60-150 miles). I feel just fine. No arthritis to my knowledge, no back or knee pain, no seat fatigue. I ride a road bike. I had to correct my LBS when they set it up for me. They assumed I'd want a non-aggressive, upright setup. I like to be tucked when riding. On those longer rides, my average never exceeds 14 mph, no matter what I do (that's my overall average including stop signs, lights, etc.).

    On shorter rides, I can get up to 16 or 17 mph average, never much more (I'm always intrigued when I read about riders averaging over 20 mph - how do they do it).

    Here in SE PE where I ride, we have (I think) a nice mix of flat vs. hilly riding. On any long ride, you'll have an opportunity to tackle some nice climbs, plenty of time to just cruise along rolling terrain.

    Anyhow, I just read that piece about the 92-year old who continues his riding. For the life of me (really!), I cannot imagine myself getting to the state where I won't be able to ride. My work sometimes takes me into assisted care facilities where I see many a soul younger than 92 by a wide margin sitting around, vegetating, barely able to hold the head up. I don't want that to be me, and, to the extent I can do anything to avoid arriving at old age in that condition, try to live my life in a manner that should prolong my mobility.

    OTOH, when I read about that fine old gentleman, I wonder if his lifestyle really contributed to his long lasting well-being, or if it's mere just luck.

    We don't have any video of him. I've seen old guys out on bikes who practically need a shove to get going. For all I know, he may be just that frail. OTOH, I saw a piece on TV where they showed this fit guy lifting weights. He was wearing only boxing (not boxer) shorts. You wouldn't have mistaken him for the governor of California when he was in his prime, but I easily mistook him for a fit, trim guy in his forties. The reason for the TV piece was that the guy was 72 years old. I'm just not into gyms, and I have a set of weights, but am not into using them, either. But I love to ride. Rare is the day when I am too slovenly to hop on one of my bikes and go for a spin.

    Anyone who contributes to this thread will, most likely, be able to offer only a hypothetical, highly subjective response, but my question still stands. Will cycling help keep me from becoming gradually more and more frail in my waning years? I'd just as soon surprise everyone when my time comes by just going to sleep or dropping over and out from a life lived with never ending vigor and mobility. I'm not into watching my grandkids (please, Lord, let there be grand kids!!) grow into adulthood from a wheel chair. I hate that song that permeates the TV commercials ("you made me love you, I didn't want to do it") as those "insurance-ambulance chasers" promise that they will restore your mobility by providing you an electric wheel chair at "no cost."

    So, what do you think? Will cycling keep me healthy?

    Caruso

  2. #2
    Senior Member Kurt Erlenbach's Avatar
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    I don't think you're asking the right question. It's not cycling, pre se, that will keep you healthy, it is the attitude that leads to you riding 200 miles a week that does it. Whether it's cycling, running, swmming, hiking, or some other acitivty, plus the right diet, plus proper preventive maintenance, you're much more likely to be the 92-year old biker, or the 72-year old that looks 40, than the immobile nursing home resident.

  3. #3
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    Being healthy wont stop the illnesses arriving but If they do suddenly appear- You high fitness will get you through with a better chance than a Couch potatoe.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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    Quote Originally Posted by kerlenbach@cfl. View Post
    I don't think you're asking the right question. It's not cycling, pre se, that will keep you healthy, it is the attitude that leads to you riding 200 miles a week that does it. Whether it's cycling, running, swmming, hiking, or some other acitivty, plus the right diet, plus proper preventive maintenance, you're much more likely to be the 92-year old biker, or the 72-year old that looks 40, than the immobile nursing home resident.
    +1, in addition to good genes and a lotta luck.
    Some auto-immune diseases etc. can sneak up seemingly from nowhere an K.O. the
    healthiest individuals... just sayin'.

  5. #5
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Genetics plays a big role in how healthy we are now and how healthy we will be when we are older. Activity plays a role as well. So does luck. One thing undeniable is that cycling has had a positive impact on my health in the recent past, is doing so at the present and is likely to do so in the future.

    And before I get to the point of sitting around on a ward waiting to die, I will, if able, take up downhill racing, extreme riding, riding on high speed, narrow highways and descending mountain roads without brakes.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  6. #6
    Senior Member freeranger's Avatar
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    I don't have the link, but I believe it was the New England Journal of Medicine that published a study which showed that bicycling actually kept you physically younger. Any form of regular exercise would seem to me to help. Keep that blood flowing and those muscles moving-gotta help! Best example I can think of is Jack Lalane (sp?), and Ned Overend is still beating some "youngsters" in mtn.biking.

  7. #7
    Ride Daddy Ride Jet Travis's Avatar
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    I heard a very fit gerontolgist speak about what he called "compression of morbidity." He said (more or less), "A healthy lifestyle may not add a lot of years to your life. However, your older years will be of a much higher quality than those of couch potatoes."

    I realize that 'for example is not proof.' But it did bring to mind the way my grandmother and my father handled their later years. She lived into her 80s, but spent the last 30 years of her life sitting in front of a TV complaining about aches, pains, relatives, ethnic groups and politics. On the other hand, my father lived to about the same age, walking most days, involved with volunteer and business activities and exuding positive energy.
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  8. #8
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    My parents are in their middle eighties, and have some health issues, but are quite active and self-supporting. Their secret? Ball room dancing, which they took up in their forties. When they retired, they were dancing up to eleven times a week (afternoon and evenings). These days, many of the places they danced have closed, and they're down to perhaps 3-4 times a week, but it is dancing that has kept them flexible, young-at-heart, and pretty darn healthy.
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  9. #9
    dbg
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    I also detest those electric wheel chairs. Who would ever willingly cave in to that kind of lifestyle. ("Rage, rage against the dying of the light") I have similar feelings about those segways. Very cute concept, but what a stupid thing to promulgate.

    I have been doing an experiment on myself for about 10 years. Track A: Ginko Biloba on and off for two year cycles. Track B: (unintentional breaks, but I've made use of them) similar cycles of exercise. So far exercise has been the big winner for perceived improvement in cognitive abilities (remember, I just used the word "promulgate.").

    Bicycling is my current activity of choice, but I keep "walking" as my fall back if things go poorly for biking.
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  10. #10
    dbg
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Gee View Post
    My parents are in their middle eighties, and have some health issues, but are quite active and self-supporting. Their secret? Ball room dancing, which they took up in their forties. When they retired, they were dancing up to eleven times a week (afternoon and evenings). These days, many of the places they danced have closed, and they're down to perhaps 3-4 times a week, but it is dancing that has kept them flexible, young-at-heart, and pretty darn healthy.
    Most excellent point. My 80 yr old mother competes nationally in a seniors dance troup. She brags about beating those 50 yr old "youngsters." I wish I was more involved myself or had a wife who was similarly inclined.
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  11. #11
    dbg
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    Quote Originally Posted by freeranger View Post
    I don't have the link, but I believe it was the New England Journal of Medicine that published a study which showed that bicycling actually kept you physically younger. Any form of regular exercise would seem to me to help. Keep that blood flowing and those muscles moving-gotta help! Best example I can think of is Jack Lalane (sp?), and Ned Overend is still beating some "youngsters" in mtn.biking.
    I remember recently seeing Jack Lalane doing a stunt (about whether it was possible) where he swam from Alcrataz to the mainland with a rope in his teeth pulling 10 row boats behind him.
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  12. #12
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    I think the 3 things that help you age well are: having something physical to do, having something mental to do, and having less stuff. (Get rid of the clutter and crap!)

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    While aging is universal, we each age differently. The research suggests that lifestyle plays a large part in how one ages, however, genetic makeup (as Blues Dawg noted) plays an equally or larger part. Socio-economic position, geographic location, and other factors can play a lesser part, but all contribute to the aging experience. I believe Stapfam's point is most accurate when said that fitness will not necessarily keep illness away. Fitness and health (primarily defined as absence of disease and continued functional abilities) are two different things. Indeed, there are many cases of individuals being quite fit but not at all healthy. So, the answer to your questions is probably, "no, not by itself." Cycling will contribute to a lifestyle that will support health, given that you don't contract a disease and that overall good health is in your genetic makeup.
    Last edited by BSLeVan; 09-16-07 at 08:14 PM.
    Oh I used to be disgusted and now I try to be amused. But since their wings have got rusted, you know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes. But when they told me 'bout their side of the bargain, that's when I knew that I could not refuse. And I won't get any older, now the angels wanna wear my red shoes.

  14. #14
    dbg
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nebob View Post
    I think the 3 things that help you age well are: having something physical to do, having something mental to do, and having less stuff. (Get rid of the clutter and crap!)
    My similar mantra has always been:

    Do everything physical the hard way (stairs, etc)
    Look endlessly for shortcuts (patterns, etc) for mental challenges.
    Have a long list of projects you hope to do someday.

    or,

    "Physically, the hard way. Mental shortcuts. Stay overly busy."
    David Green, Naperville, IL USA (Trek 5900 Superlight), (Lemond BA), (Peugeot UO8 (SS)), (Dozen other muts)

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  15. #15
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    As said above, activity is better than sitting around. I am sure that there are other activities than biking. Swimming, hiking, just walking, aerobics, rowing, jogging, running, mountaineering, sport dancing, ball room dancing and ball games come to my mind and I am sure that I missed some.

    Biking stands out for a number of reasons:
    Anybody can do it who is reasonably mobile. Does not cost a fortune. Can be done anywhere. Your body will tolerate it longer than many other activities. It is outdoors but can be done indoors. Is easy on frail joints and has positive effect on damaged limbs.

    Will it make you live longer and/or better? My opinion is that our body needs good foodstuff to keep healthy. Restricting that foodstuff to control weight gain is not good IMHO. Better is to exercise it off. Biking is one good way to do it.
    We cannot do anything about genetics or unforeseeable disasters. Lets do that what we can do something about.

  16. #16
    Lost in Nostalgia
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    Never too old in San Francisco

    I rode a lot 30 years ago and used to do a century+ per weekend in addition to local weekday rides, even raced for about 8 years in the 1970's-1980's. Then from 1995, I left cycling because of work and became very sedentary. After a few years, (I'm 62 today) the body sure began to show the effects of doing nothing physical. Most notably was loss of lung capacity and a slight leg weakness coming on in addition to being 50 pounds overweight.

    All my friends my age and even 10 years younger are showing effects of age, with it's related stiffness, overweight, out of breath with the slightest effort to name just a few. What shocked me was when a lifelong, younger friend who I always assumed to be healthy, announced he had high blood pressure and was taking pills for it.

    That day, I decided I didn't want to join their crowd. First thing I did was start losing 40 pounds of fat. Then, got out the old MTB and went completely through it and began riding again. The first couple weeks was very hard with sore everything and 4 miles a ride was the best I could do but kept it up.

    Today I'm up to 40 miles per ride and the difference in the body is amazing. Gone is that leg weakness and more fat is melting away, the old jersey's fit again and the blood pressure has dropped several points into the low normal range.

    Looking back, I wonder how I could have ever left cycling as old memories come back of those 140 mile distance rides of years ago. In fact, I'm greatly looking forward to a new road bike and am totally excited more than ever about cycling again.

    Healthwise, I know there aren't any guarantees in life but, I figure, keeping in great shape will reduce chances of getting ill and when you do, will be better able to overcome it.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Terrierman's Avatar
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    It won't make you unhealthy and thats a fact Jack.
    It's all downhill from here. Except the parts that are uphill.

  18. #18
    Senior Member ?? Beverly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nebob View Post
    I think the 3 things that help you age well are: having something physical to do, having something mental to do, and having less stuff. (Get rid of the clutter and crap!)
    There's a lot to be said about "having less stuff". About 8 years ago I bought a book titled "Repacking your Bags". It covered how to balance the demands of work, family, things, etc that were causing stressful demands on you. After reading the book I decided to sell the large house with an acre of yard because it was keeping me from doing what I wanted to do. I spent weekends taking care of the house and yard instead of riding the bike. I've never regretted one moment....well, there are times I wish I had a little more room in the garage for more bikes
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  19. #19
    as I used to be NotAsFat's Avatar
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    For me, one of the absolutely critical features of an enjoyable old age is mobility, being able to go out and do things for myself. Given the choice between "living" as a bed-ridden husk or eating a round from my .357, I would probably opt for the .357.

    One of the really nasty problems of old age is osteoporosis. Cycling doesn't do much to promote bone density (unless you crash and break bones a lot). So cycling really isn't a complete prescription for a healthy old age.

    That said, cycling is an excellent cardio workout which doesn't beat up your knees the way running can. It builds leg strength, which enhances your mobility, as you age. It's good for weight control, which also helps keep you mobile. It's my principal form of exercise, and I wish I'd started back with it 5-10 years sooner than I did.
    Starve a terrorist - ride a bike to work. It's not just good for the environment, it's good for civilization.

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  20. #20
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carusoswi View Post
    Will cycling keep me healthy?
    Heya, Caruso. Youra healthy. Youra happy. Bicycling's making you an offer you can't refuse. You quit riding your bike, something could happen. Capisce?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OkofqBGObU

    TCS

    PS: You've outlived the great Caruso by 8 years already.
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  21. #21
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    I'd like to make a pitch for weight lifting as a complement to your bicycling to add to your fitness and health, if it isn't already.

    We naturally lose about 1% of our strength per year after our prime years. This can pretty much be avoided. In addition, heavy weight lifting assists with that old osteoporosis thing, and a number of other bodily functions.

    Today, at the gym, I was finally able to hit the absolute max weight with the pec machine - 312 lbs, for four repititions. That is as much weight as you can put on the machine. About 2-5% of the folks in the gym could do that. I work out at the gym and at home, using both free weights and machines.

    I have been working at this for several years, and have hit the 300 pound mark several times. But, today, at almost 68yo, I pushed far beyond 300. And it is a great feeling having an empirical measurement that I am getting stronger, not weaker, as I age.

    Every book or article I read says that weight lifting has to be a component of an overall fitness program as you age, and many mention heavy weights.

    However, I have been weight lifting for years. I can do the 312 lbs thing with absolutely no soreness at all. I would not recommend that you do this.

    For the few of you who have not seen my home weight room, here is a pic. Others have likely seen it many times, but, still, I think it gives an example of what someone in their late 60's can do.

    Last edited by DnvrFox; 09-16-07 at 04:58 PM.
    Gone >> Gone >> Gone >> Gone >> Gone >> Gone >> Gone

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    All things being equal, you'll be better off exercising than someone who doesn't. But things aren't equal, and some couch potato with a twinky diet and the right genes could be sprightly and healthy well past your dotage. I've seen lots of examples both ways.
    Beach Triathlon: Stroll. Bike. Wade.

  23. #23
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    I recall an example that clearly describes the differences between fitness and health. James (? right name?) Fox, the running guru who got the whole jogging craze started, was contrasted with Winston Churchill. Churchill was overweight, ate richly, was sedentary, fond of cigars and strong drink, yet lived into his 90s. Fox, on the other hand, was lean, ate right, exercised ferociously and avoided the whole smorgasbord of vices, yet because of congenital heart problems, had a heart attack and died while in his 40s (if I remember correctly) while running. Fox was fit, but not healthy. Churchill, his polar opposite. Having said this, I would guess that Fox's quality of life was very good up until the time he keeled over. I don't know about Churchill's final days, but I do recognize that cigars and strong drink have their charms, although not for everyone. Nature and nurture. You can't separate them.
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  24. #24
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Move it or loose it!
    Am 75, covered over 250,000 miles by bicycle so far. . .
    Yup, had the big C and few other issues, but still fit and riding 100+ miles a week.
    Got stuff to do . . .see ya!

  25. #25
    FormerBadDog luludog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by knotty View Post
    I rode a lot 30 years ago and used to do a century+ per weekend in addition to local weekday rides, even raced for about 8 years in the 1970's-1980's. Then from 1995, I left cycling because of work and became very sedentary. After a few years, (I'm 62 today) the body sure began to show the effects of doing nothing physical. Most notably was loss of lung capacity and a slight leg weakness coming on in addition to being 50 pounds overweight.

    All my friends my age and even 10 years younger are showing effects of age, with it's related stiffness, overweight, out of breath with the slightest effort to name just a few. What shocked me was when a lifelong, younger friend who I always assumed to be healthy, announced he had high blood pressure and was taking pills for it.

    That day, I decided I didn't want to join their crowd. First thing I did was start losing 40 pounds of fat. Then, got out the old MTB and went completely through it and began riding again. The first couple weeks was very hard with sore everything and 4 miles a ride was the best I could do but kept it up.

    Today I'm up to 40 miles per ride and the difference in the body is amazing. Gone is that leg weakness and more fat is melting away, the old jersey's fit again and the blood pressure has dropped several points into the low normal range.

    Looking back, I wonder how I could have ever left cycling as old memories come back of those 140 mile distance rides of years ago. In fact, I'm greatly looking forward to a new road bike and am totally excited more than ever about cycling again.

    Healthwise, I know there aren't any guarantees in life but, I figure, keeping in great shape will reduce chances of getting ill and when you do, will be better able to overcome it.
    Knotty, like you I just joined this forum, and am also in San Francisco. I can relate to what you're
    saying. I've been trying get back something of the fitness I used to have 10 years ago. Work in
    particular has played hell with my riding. One thing that hasn't been mentioned about cycling and
    fitness: Not only is there a physical benefit, but I think there are mental aspects too. After I'd been
    cycling for a number of years, I began to refuse to accept the idea of giving up before reaching my
    destination. This was something new. I began to realize that no matter how tough the route was,
    I could persevere and make it to the finish. I started having confidence in my abilities and knew that
    I didn't need to sign up for century rides because I could go out by myself alone and get back just
    fine. This is something I remember reading in a book long ago by Kenneth Cooper called Aerobics.
    The more physically fit a person became the more they gained in self confidence.

    Just out of curiosity, why did you start cycling? I started after watching Alexi Grewal beat Steve Bauer
    in the 1984 Olympics. Although cycling is big these days, all of you guys who go back before Lance
    Armstrong and Greg LeMond came along, can you tell me why you would take up such a minority sport
    like cycling in the US?

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