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  1. #1
    Senior Member GeorgeBMac's Avatar
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    Cardio benefits of cycling

    I got the chance to ask a panel of experts from the Cleveland clinic a question that has been bothering me -- and I got back what I think is a wonderfully clear answer. So, for what it's worth, I wanted to share it with the 50+'rs...

    Dr. Blackburn is the Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation, Preventive Cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic.

    This was from a public chat and the transcripts are available online -- so I don't think I'm violating any copyright or privacy laws by posting this here...

    GeorgeBMac: Hi, Everyone "knows" that exercise is good for the heart and the vascular system -- but why is AEROBIC exercise good for that system? Physiologically, what does it do that is good for the cardio/cerebral vascular system?


    Gordon Blackburn PhD: Exercise and improvement in functional capacity have a strong impact in reducing risk for developing heart disease, in both the primary and secondary settings, and reducing mortality. For every 1 MET increase in functional capacity there is a 9 12 percent reduction in cardiovascular and all cause death. (Exercise intensity can be described in units of METS. 1 MET=1 kcal/kg body wt/hr).

    Some of the direct effects of exercise include improved endothelial function (protective lining of the artery); increased capillary density; improved blood pressure control; improved glucose control; and slight improvement in HDL. All of these directly and indirectly decrease the risk of developing and progressing heart disease.


    For myself, it drives me nuts when hear "it's good for you!" -- but there is no clear reason given for saying that. It sounds too much like my mom telling me to eat my veges... So, for the first time I think I have a better understanding of what cycling does for me. Thank you Dr. Blackburn!
    --------------------------------------
    bikes: 1992 Cannondale R500, 2012 Trek DS 8.5, 2008 LeMond Poprad

  2. #2
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    It saved my life.

    Twice.

    Cardio fitness can't be trumped.

  3. #3
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    Not to dis the benefits of aerobic exercise, but I believe the first published connection between exercise and the prevention of heart disease involved longshoremen (back in the days of physical dock work). Those guys did intense anaerobic strength work all day long and were nearly immune to heart disease.

    I'm pleased that being active is healthy, but truth be told, I'd still ride, hike and generally play even if it shortened my life. It's just too much fun to miss out on.

  4. #4
    Senior Member h2oxtc's Avatar
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    I bought a Garmin 500 this year with the heart rate monitor, with the intent to have something more substantive than "I think I trained hard". My heart rate averages in the 160 range during a typical ride which according to Garmin for my age & weight is my cardio training range. Now that I have the data it would be easier to correlate "how I feel" with how my cardio system is actually performing. Bottom line - 10% grades are still a killer with or without the heart rate monitor.

  5. #5
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I had been riding for ten years before I had a heart attack. I was fit and in training for a hard ride. Cholesterol was the problem but at the Angiogram I was asked what sport I did. The surgeon said that although the arteries were clogged-only regular workouts would leave the heart that strong and clear of build up and I was lucky in that I did a sport that pushed the heart to a level that kept it healthy and strong. Without that I would have been dead.

    But I have always done some sport or other. Only time I notice how good exercise is for me- is when I don't do it.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  6. #6
    A might bewildered... Dudelsack's Avatar
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    On a lighter note (we're all for cardiovascular fitness here. That's one reason why I cycle), I found this little gem from BikeSnobNYC yesterday:

    In other words, if you choose to walk from place to place you're going to get creamed regardless of whether or not you follow the rules, but fortunately you do have one form of defense, which is to be fat:

    Perhaps the most surprising finding was that excessive weight may prove a boon for [cyclists?] in a collision. Victims with an above-normal body mass index were found to have less severe injuries than their counterparts. “It is not implausible that a greater proportion of torso and extremity fat may protect against injury,” the report said.


    So it's finally come to this: obesity is the new helment, and clearly we're evolving to the point that we're developing protective outer layers to protect us on the short walk from the car to the house. Obviously Bloomberg better rethink that large soda ban.

  7. #7
    Super Moderator making's Avatar
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    I feel safer.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dudelsack View Post
    On a lighter note (we're all for cardiovascular fitness here. That's one reason why I cycle), I found this little gem from BikeSnobNYC yesterday:

    In other words, if you choose to walk from place to place you're going to get creamed regardless of whether or not you follow the rules, but fortunately you do have one form of defense, which is to be fat:

    Perhaps the most surprising finding was that excessive weight may prove a boon for [cyclists?] in a collision. Victims with an above-normal body mass index were found to have less severe injuries than their counterparts. “It is not implausible that a greater proportion of torso and extremity fat may protect against injury,” the report said.


    So it's finally come to this: obesity is the new helment, and clearly we're evolving to the point that we're developing protective outer layers to protect us on the short walk from the car to the house. Obviously Bloomberg better rethink that large soda ban.
    Good Night Chesty, Wherever You Are

  8. #8
    Senior Member GeorgeBMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    I had been riding for ten years before I had a heart attack. I was fit and in training for a hard ride. Cholesterol was the problem but at the Angiogram I was asked what sport I did. The surgeon said that although the arteries were clogged-only regular workouts would leave the heart that strong and clear of build up and I was lucky in that I did a sport that pushed the heart to a level that kept it healthy and strong. Without that I would have been dead.

    But I have always done some sport or other. Only time I notice how good exercise is for me- is when I don't do it.
    Thanks for sharing your story...

    I guess it just goes to show that there is no one single right answer: being fit will not, by itself, prevent heart attacks -- but neither will only reducing LDL...

    ... It seems you have to take care of it all: cholesterol, fitness, sugar, weight, inflammation, and on and on...

    That sounds like a lot of trouble and a lot of work. But, as they say, it's better than the alternative...
    --------------------------------------
    bikes: 1992 Cannondale R500, 2012 Trek DS 8.5, 2008 LeMond Poprad

  9. #9
    Senior Member rydabent's Avatar
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    Well apparently cycling is good for me. My BP runs right at 122/70, and my resting heart rate run in the high 50s. BTW I will be 75 this year.

  10. #10
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
    Well apparently cycling is good for me. My BP runs right at 122/70, and my resting heart rate run in the high 50s. BTW I will be 75 this year.
    I envy your BP -- because of a genetic tendency inherited from my maternal grandmother, I have to work hard to get mine down to that level.

    My short answer to the opening question is no surprise -- I know aerobic activity is good for the heart, because I have seen so much empirical evidence of this in myself and in my cycling, running, and dancing friends. stapfam's story is typical -- although regular exercise did not prevent his heart attack, it definitely postponed its onset and probably lessened its severity and enhanced his recovery.

    The only fountain of youth I know is a combination of diet, exercise, and mental attitude.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  11. #11
    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    I had been riding for ten years before I had a heart attack. I was fit and in training for a hard ride. Cholesterol was the problem but at the Angiogram I was asked what sport I did. The surgeon said that although the arteries were clogged-only regular workouts would leave the heart that strong and clear of build up and I was lucky in that I did a sport that pushed the heart to a level that kept it healthy and strong. Without that I would have been dead.

    But I have always done some sport or other. Only time I notice how good exercise is for me- is when I don't do it.
    This is similar to my story, except I had long periods of sedentary lifestyle, and once hit 305 lbs. Never had problems with hypertension, but had cholesterol levels that were way out of whack. Part of that was heredity, though I am sure lifestyle played a part. I had a heart attack in ’08 while riding my bike. I was at that time down to about 290, and was doing what was for me at the time moderate workouts; five miles a day. I did not have an HRM back then, but guess I was doing 120-140 on my rides. Got emergency angioplasty and two stents. I was lucky in that there was minimal damage due to rapid response, and the doctors tell me, the fact that I had been doing some exercise. I was cleared to get back on the bike as soon as the femoral incision was completely healed; about four weeks.

    I am now up to 100 to 200 miles per week, down to 225 lbs (with a few valley’s some frustrating plateaus, and a couple of backslides). Have done five rides in the last year in excess of 50 miles, and am signing up for my first metric century in June (3600 ft) and my first full century in October (6500 ft).

    My wife is more worried than my doctors are.
    As much as you paid for that Beemer [Mercedies, Audi, Escalade], I'm surprised it didn't come equipped with turn signals.

  12. #12
    Senior Member TromboneAl's Avatar
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    I've seen a shift in thinking about cardio -- at least about the long hard cardio. For example:

    A Case Against Cardio

    My current strategy is to alternate long "Brisk walking pace" rides, and short hard rides with high-intensity intervals (HIIT).
    My Book: Drive, Ride, Repeat: The Mostly-True Account of a Cross-Country Car and Bicycle Adventure

  13. #13
    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
    I've seen a shift in thinking about cardio -- at least about the long hard cardio. For example:

    A Case Against Cardio

    My current strategy is to alternate long "Brisk walking pace" rides, and short hard rides with high-intensity intervals (HIIT).
    Not really a case against cardio so much as it is a case against over doing it. I have never worked out hard enough for this to really be a concern, but there was some valuable info in that article, now that I am more fit and considering ramping up my workouts. About a year ago there was one of those “news” stories about a “scientific study” that said exercise was bad for your heart. Those “studies” said pretty much what this guy Sisson is saying, but these things often get blown up way out of context. My wife wanted me off the bike immediately. I had to e-mail my doc., and show her the response to calm her down.
    As much as you paid for that Beemer [Mercedies, Audi, Escalade], I'm surprised it didn't come equipped with turn signals.

  14. #14
    Senior Member JerrySTL's Avatar
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    I'd been riding for years before having a heart attack while on the bike at age 46. I did have slightly elevated cholesterol but no family history or risk factors. I challenged my daughter to a race up a very steep, long climb. Being competitive, we both did a max effort. I started feeling chest pain half way up the hill and when I got to the top, my daughter was there barfing. Yes she beat me. We rode 30 miles back to the car and I rode 35 more miles the next day. Only then did I go see a doctor.

    A cardiac cath showed a 90% blockage in a little artery. The rest of my heart looked very good. The cardiologist said that I probably never noticed any symptoms because of excellent collateral circulation due to years of cycling and running. I bet that this is one reason aerobic exercise reduces mortality in heart attacks.

    They can't get to the artery to fix it so I always ride with a heart rate monitor and slow down when I hit 160 BPM. I'm also on a beta blocker to keep my heart rate low.

  15. #15
    Senior Member GeorgeBMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
    I've seen a shift in thinking about cardio -- at least about the long hard cardio. For example:

    A Case Against Cardio

    My current strategy is to alternate long "Brisk walking pace" rides, and short hard rides with high-intensity intervals (HIIT).
    Thanks for sharing that -- and that article does make sense to me.

    And, I suspect it would make sense to Dr Blackburn as well because, in a follow-up question that that I did not post, he strongly stressed the use of MODERATE aerobic exercise (I capitalized it that way because that's what he did).
    --------------------------------------
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  16. #16
    Senior Member GeorgeBMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JerrySTL View Post
    I'd been riding for years before having a heart attack while on the bike at age 46. I did have slightly elevated cholesterol but no family history or risk factors. I challenged my daughter to a race up a very steep, long climb. Being competitive, we both did a max effort. I started feeling chest pain half way up the hill and when I got to the top, my daughter was there barfing. Yes she beat me. We rode 30 miles back to the car and I rode 35 more miles the next day. Only then did I go see a doctor.

    A cardiac cath showed a 90% blockage in a little artery. The rest of my heart looked very good. The cardiologist said that I probably never noticed any symptoms because of excellent collateral circulation due to years of cycling and running. I bet that this is one reason aerobic exercise reduces mortality in heart attacks.

    They can't get to the artery to fix it so I always ride with a heart rate monitor and slow down when I hit 160 BPM. I'm also on a beta blocker to keep my heart rate low.
    It was nice of you to let her win!
    --------------------------------------
    bikes: 1992 Cannondale R500, 2012 Trek DS 8.5, 2008 LeMond Poprad

  17. #17
    Senior Member Bikey Mikey's Avatar
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    Had an appt with the doc today. BP 104/60 and HR of 52.
    Please support diabetics like myself, a red rider, by supporting the American Diabetes Association.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member OldsCOOL's Avatar
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    Excellent info. It's especially nice to have something in your life that you really love to do and it also be good for you. Cycling has been a lifelong love for me.
    Having a flat tire as part of the total cycling experience is highly overrated. Knowing how to fix one quickly is not.

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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    I had been riding for ten years before I had a heart attack. I was fit and in training for a hard ride. Cholesterol was the problem but at the Angiogram I was asked what sport I did. The surgeon said that although the arteries were clogged-only regular workouts would leave the heart that strong and clear of build up and I was lucky in that I did a sport that pushed the heart to a level that kept it healthy and strong. Without that I would have been dead.

    But I have always done some sport or other. Only time I notice how good exercise is for me- is when I don't do it.
    I know exactly what you mean. I am under 50 at 46 now but at 43 I had a widow maker heart attack. 100% blockage of the LAD. 3 Weeks after the heart attack my cardiologist told me if he didn't know my recent history he would call my heart normal. I wasn't cycling then but doing Brazillian Jiu Jitsu 3-5 days a week and had won the Pan Am's for the over 40 division 6 months before the heart attack. The cadiologist said that was why I was still alive today. Exercise works!

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