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Is cycling enough?

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Old 03-12-18, 04:17 PM
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MRT2
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Is cycling enough?

Recently, a good friend had a heart attack that left him fighting for his life. Fortunately thanks to modern medicine, it looks like he will survive the ordeal. But here is the thing. Through the spring through fall, he rides 3 days a week, 1 to 2 hours per ride. In winter, he rides a stationary at the gym at what I would call a leisurely pace.

So I had to ask. Were there warning signs? Yes. Shortness of breath when walking up stairs, terrible back pain, and eventually tightness in the chest. So why didn't you get help sooner? Because, he said, how could I have advanced heart disease when I ride so much?

I have reluctantly concluded cycling alone isn't enough to prevent heart disease and other aging related diseases .

1. Cycling is a non weight bearing activity. While osteoporosis is mostly something that afflicts aging women, men can suffer from atrophy of lean muscle tissue.

2. Cycling does nothing for flexibility.

3. The seasonal nature of cycling for those who live in colder climates. Anybody who tends to lose 15 lbs every summer only to put it back on in the fall or winter knows what I mean.

4. Homeostasis. The body adjusts to any one activity and unless you progressively make it harder. Doing the exact same workout means you are actually allowing the body to get less fit as the body adjusts to the same workout every day or every other day. Anybody who has noticed their physique looks pretty much the same as it did last year, or the year before that knows what I mean.

I am certainly not giving up on riding, but I am no longer planning on relying on cycling as my primary form of exercise. Some might say I am crazy, but I am taking up martial arts, with cycling being a complementary part of my program.
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Old 03-12-18, 04:42 PM
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I'm still hoping cycling is, in fact, the "magic bullet"

I'm not a fast rider, but I do put the hours in, which I am hoping are cardiac protective. But, one does have to worry about high blood pressure and cholesterol. At least cholesterol is helped with exercise.

Mixing it up a bit and trying some interval training, or faster rides is probably a good idea.

One thing, however, are a few things that you've mentioned. I don't get in enough upper body exercise, and keep telling myself to add an upper body routine. Nonetheless, strong legs should help with balance as I age.

I do take some calcium supplements, but also have considered adding jogging back into my routine. I haven't hardly done any jogging for decades, and the few jogs I've done have been tough.
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Old 03-12-18, 04:43 PM
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Riding 3 hours a week isn't exactly a ton of riding.

Having said that, Jim Fixx died of heart failure too, so fitness isn't everything.
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Old 03-12-18, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
Riding 3 hours a week isn't exactly a ton of riding.

Having said that, Jim Fixx died of heart failure too, so fitness isn't everything.
Agreed, but it was actually more like 4 1/2 to 6 hours per week. But, very regimented. When I suggested he try one of my routes, he passed, saying he likes to know exactly what to expect each ride.
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Old 03-12-18, 05:09 PM
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I think there are many factors - exercise is just one. Diet. Smoking (I assume your friend doesn't smoke). Stress. Genetics.

I am not sure what you mean by "riding a stationary bike at a leisurely pace". I have seen some people at gyms that are barely pedaling while watching TV or reading a magazine, and to me that seems like a leisurely pace.
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Old 03-12-18, 05:25 PM
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I have reluctantly concluded cycling alone isn't enough to prevent heart disease and other aging related diseases .



Yes and No, a person could use cycling only if they had to but there is better options to mix in with cycling.



1. Cycling is a non weight bearing activity. While osteoporosis is mostly something that afflicts aging women, men can suffer from atrophy of lean muscle tissue.


Yes, agree. Leg day for a cyclist is every day but upper body needs other activity.

2. Cycling does nothing for flexibility.


100% agree...do yoga its great!

3. The seasonal nature of cycling for those who live in colder climates. Anybody who tends to lose 15 lbs every summer only to put it back on in the fall or winter knows what I mean.



Thank god for Zwift

4. Homeostasis. The body adjusts to any one activity and unless you progressively make it harder. Doing the exact same workout means you are actually allowing the body to get less fit as the body adjusts to the same workout every day or every other day. Anybody who has noticed their physique looks pretty much the same as it did last year, or the year before that knows what I mean.



Intervals will fix this! Intervals really work well.
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Old 03-12-18, 06:19 PM
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Nothing is ever the "only thing".
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Old 03-12-18, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by ericy View Post
Genetics.
This may be the biggest one.
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Old 03-12-18, 06:49 PM
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My brother had a heart attack about 10 years ago, he is in good shape, didn't do any cardio that I know of and ate like crap (beef is his only food group). 2 years ago he had his second heart attack and had open chest surgery and quadruple by-pass. At my last physical I was asking my doctor a lot of questions about heart problems, so he had me do a stress test. I got good results but he said that there is always the possibility I could just drop dead from a heart problem. So I guess I will do as much as I can to keep the odds in my favor like taking an aspirin every day but it may happen anyways.
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Old 03-12-18, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post

I have reluctantly concluded cycling alone isn't enough to prevent heart disease and other aging related diseases .
I've ridden with a couple groups in their 50s and 60s. They are competent riders for sure, but off the bike they look and move like they have one foot in the grave. Sorry to appear so judgmental, but I doubt if any of them could run a mile, do a pull-up, yoga balance, or perform any series of body or dead weight movements. Bike fitness is sorta specialized and limited.
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Old 03-12-18, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
Some might say I am crazy, but I am taking up martial arts, with cycling being a complementary part of my program.

I think that is a great idea.


What style of Martial Arts?
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Old 03-12-18, 08:06 PM
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NYT just had an interesting article about the 'diet gurus' from over the years. (Sorry, I do not have quick access to the link). Their diet/exercise approaches, in some cases, had the ability to keep their lab mice alive far longer than expected. However, in their own lives, they did not receive the same results.

My read and I think one of the conclusions, which the writer points out as well, is so many factors impact our health. To reach a conclusion from a sample of one, even if the person is seen as an expert, is a stretch.
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Old 03-12-18, 08:34 PM
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I was cycling around 3,000 miles/yr outdoors and doing various cardio machines in the gym when cycling wasn't an option. I had two heart attacks, the first after a 100-mile gravel grinder and the second about a month into the winter season a year later. I've had people mockingly tell me that "all that riding didn't do you any good, you had two heart attacks anyway" but my cardiologist tells me that my cycling may not have prevented my heart attacks, but may have saved my life. Both heart attacks could have been very bad, the second could easily have been a killer, but I had 100% recovery with no significant damage and two-week recovery times (the minimum they would allow before signing me off to return to work). I have a history of obesity and a horrific family history of heart disease and early death or disability on both sides of the family. If not for cycling, I would probably be a cardiac cripple or dead instead of preparing for a 35-mile spring cyclothon.

I'm all for participating in a variety of activities, including resistance training, as I think overall fitness benefits when you don't overspecialize, but cycling is still my #1 favorite.
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Old 03-13-18, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by ericy View Post
I think there are many factors - exercise is just one. Diet. Smoking (I assume your friend doesn't smoke). Stress. Genetics.

I am not sure what you mean by "riding a stationary bike at a leisurely pace". I have seen some people at gyms that are barely pedaling while watching TV or reading a magazine, and to me that seems like a leisurely pace.
That is exactly what I mean by a leisurely pace. Better than sitting on a couch, but not enough to protect against aging and heart disease.
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Old 03-13-18, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by ColonelSanders View Post
I think that is a great idea.


What style of Martial Arts?
Tae Kwon Do.
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Old 03-13-18, 08:02 AM
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In a word, No, cycling isn't enough. Lifestyle is everything with the exception of the gene pool you're stuck with and cycling is only a small part of a lifestyle. Diet, rest, stress, exercise and you can't just throw a switch either as you'll always have the baggage of your earlier poor life choices along for the ride. I gave up smoking 17 years ago but damage was done that can't be erased.
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Old 03-13-18, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
Riding 3 hours a week isn't exactly a ton of riding.

Having said that, Jim Fixx died of heart failure too, so fitness isn't everything.
This is true, but Jim Fixx also had heart disease before he started running.

john
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Old 03-13-18, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
Recently, a good friend had a heart attack that left him fighting for his life. Fortunately thanks to modern medicine, it looks like he will survive the ordeal. But here is the thing. Through the spring through fall, he rides 3 days a week, 1 to 2 hours per ride. In winter, he rides a stationary at the gym at what I would call a leisurely pace.

So I had to ask. Were there warning signs? Yes. Shortness of breath when walking up stairs, terrible back pain, and eventually tightness in the chest. So why didn't you get help sooner? Because, he said, how could I have advanced heart disease when I ride so much?

I have reluctantly concluded cycling alone isn't enough to prevent heart disease and other aging related diseases .

1. Cycling is a non weight bearing activity. While osteoporosis is mostly something that afflicts aging women, men can suffer from atrophy of lean muscle tissue.

2. Cycling does nothing for flexibility.

3. The seasonal nature of cycling for those who live in colder climates. Anybody who tends to lose 15 lbs every summer only to put it back on in the fall or winter knows what I mean.

4. Homeostasis. The body adjusts to any one activity and unless you progressively make it harder. Doing the exact same workout means you are actually allowing the body to get less fit as the body adjusts to the same workout every day or every other day. Anybody who has noticed their physique looks pretty much the same as it did last year, or the year before that knows what I mean.

I am certainly not giving up on riding, but I am no longer planning on relying on cycling as my primary form of exercise. Some might say I am crazy, but I am taking up martial arts, with cycling being a complementary part of my program.
Again, here are my 2 cents FWIW.

Cycling is a pure aerobic activity and like you said it does little for muscles unrelated to the legs let alone bone density or structure.

Secondly, it will not prevent heart disease. It will strengthen the heart muscle and that is a good thing since the heart will become stronger and thus over time put less stress on it when exerted. But that does not mean if you are genetically disposed to heart disease, high blood pressure or high cholesterol that it will cure it. It will help but not cure. Genetics is genetics and it is the one thing we cannot overcome.

Can we make it better? Of course. This also means that as we age we need to stay focused and get regular checkups.

I played basketball at a high level into my mid 30's, switch over to referring basketball for 28 years doing about 250 games a year and have now moved on to cycling about 3500 miles a year. All of that did not prevent my high blood pressure nor my need to have a heart cath done in 2007. I did not have any blockage but the HBP is still present today but under control. Of course that led to sleep apnea that was more of the culprit. Again, now under control. I also know that I have no problem with high cholesterol and there could be a correlation to riding and cholesterol levels.

Yes, 6 month visits to the Cardio doc keep everything in line but there are no guarantees. Due to low T I am still overweight despite all the exercise yet modified eating. So it is about paying attention and trying to lessen the percentages. You can never eliminate them entirely.

In another thread I described an event ride I did where a guy younger than me was out leading the pace line and at a stop sign I pulled up next to him and he was wrecked. This was around 15 miles in. Sweating really bad. I asked him if he was OK and he nodded. Never saw him again. Come to find out at the rest stop at 50 miles that he had a heart attack at mile 18. Found out from a friend that this guy rode a lot too so it was not like he was getting off the couch and jumping on a bike hell bent to prove something.

Secondly, my riding partner in his mid 50's did have some blockage. Had stints. This guy weights 145-150 max and is still 5-10. Very strong rider. We were in spin class when he felt something. Made it thru the class and was fine. Just in case went to doc the next day and they ran some blood work. Ahh, get to the hospital. He had 3 bypasses last January. He has recovered re-markedly well and the MD's are using him as a poster boy so to speak, but it again just goes to show that you need to really pay attention to your history and current condition. Looking at him and riding with him you would never think he would or did need 3 bypasses.

Just goes to show, you really never know. One thing is for sure, biking does not hurt. It helps but to what degree mainly determines your past and present physical condition along with that pesky genetic thing.

To supplement my riding I have restarted a weight training workout that I do twice a week. So at least I can put some muscle mass on my bones and work my core better. It will help me cycling but I do not know the long term effects it will play on the rest of my body. Again, it can't hurt. The body was made to work and move, not sit around.

john
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Old 03-13-18, 11:55 AM
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I was just expressing some concern and frustration with my current training regimen. In the past, I supplemented cycling with a mix of other gym oriented workouts including spinning, yoga, pilates and weights. For some reason, I have slacked off on some of these other things. Additionally, I set some mileage goals for last summer, most of which I achieved, but what I did not achieve was much weight loss, and even less inches lost around the waist. Maybe after a whole season of riding, my weight was down 15 lbs, and my waist circumference was down maybe an inch or two, which is not enough given my history of adding to my circumference in the winter. I know this is my fault, and reflects my failure to adjust my fitness routine, and to change my diet.

So, with the addition of martial arts, I am backing off on cycling mileage goals this summer but will continue to ride at least twice, and hopefully as often as 4 times a week in addition to 2 to 3 martial arts workouts per week.

I already know that in just 2 weeks of martial arts, I have worked my body more than I have in years. And I am assuming at this point they are still going easy on me because I am just a newbie, and there are things I still cannot handle physically, yet.

As for specific weight loss goals, I am looking to lose 30 lbs by my birthday, which is the end of July, and to lose 6 inches off my waist. (and hopefully another 4 or 5 inches, and maybe another 25 lbs by next year.) That would put me still in this forum, but barely so.
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Old 03-13-18, 10:03 PM
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Genetics is a big part. My brother in law was fit and one of those wiry strong guys. No problems. Started feeling faint and sought medical help. Ended up having a faulty heart valve and a 6cm aneurysm on his aorta at the ripe old age of 32! Genetics. A pipe now replaces a section of his aorta and he has a new pig valve in there. Gone fro a ticking time bomb to a second (albeit limited compared to his previous lifestyle) lease on life. A workmate had a low level heart attack at 45 due to a blockage. Very slight very fit guy and a smoker to boot. He showed me his scan of the blockage. All it was was a small section of his aorta looked like someone had pinched it. The muscles in the wall had failed. Doc told him it was totally unrelated to his smoking and just something that he sees happen from time to time.

It is widely known now that certain lifestyle habits can greatly increase your chances of medical issues, but sometimes genetics and just plain bad luck can have you questioning if it is all worth it.

On another note, physical activity is just a small piece of the puzzle. One big factor to keep in mind is that (depending on where you look) active people only burn about 20-30% of their daily calorie expenditure through exercise. What that basically means is that any activity is not going to be some magical bullet. You are only increasing your calorie expenditure by a small margin by even being quite active. Most people get into exercise as a weight loss measure and neglect to pay equal attention to their diet, which is the biggest piece of the puzzle.
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Old 03-14-18, 10:15 AM
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It's not just morbidly obese people who have heart attacks. Sometimes, for some reason, physically fit people have them too.

Genetics and diet are likely the most important factors with regards to heart disease. And perhaps cycling won't totally prevent a heart attack. But it's still better to get some exercise through cycling than to not do it.
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Old 03-14-18, 11:44 AM
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I think eating is more important than exercise. Eating healthy nutrious food, that is.
Most my people from before two generations ago ate nothing but organic fruit and vegetables and free-range meats straight from the farm...they did no exercise except walking. Most lived to 80 or 90 years old, with no health disease.
That is...before the food became all industrialized and processed with extra sugar to make you addicted and preservatives.

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Old 03-14-18, 12:06 PM
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There is one really simple way to step up what the bike can do for you. Still won't do everything but it will increase upper body strength and vary your workout a lot. Ride fix gear. Do hills on that fix gear. Both up and down. (But don't be a fool. Have good brakes and use them.)

I also do as simple routine of arms and shoulder weights, primarily for my shoulders as I have done real soft tissue injury to both. Cool part is that I get to see real benefits from that work every time I get on the fix gear. So I get positive incentives regularly to keep up the work.

When I pour on the miles on my geared bike, I can watch my body evelve into a "road machine", the classic skinny upper body and all legs. If I do the same miles on fix gears, I get hard. Yes, my upper body trims down to what is important but that includes a line of hard muscle from my thighs up my torso, down my shoulders and arms to my hands. (If you could see the full photo of my logo, you would see those muscles on full display; that photo was taken going up a 14% grade on a 42-17. Two hours later, in the shower, it hurt to touch my forearms with soap!)

I don't expect to convert anybody here. But I am a full believer that fix gears are the secret to a more healthy existence that includes excessive amounts of riding.

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Old 03-14-18, 04:28 PM
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During the month of February the local hospital has a special where you can get an MRI heart valve scan. They look at the heart valves and check for plaque. You get "scored" from 0(clean and clear) to 5(you're probably having a heart attack right now). You want some piece of mind, then go that route. I did, scored a 0, also had a scan of my carotid artery too, just to be safer. More info is better, rather than assuming doing a few low intensity rides every once in a while will deter something that could be caused my genetics or diet. Check and see if they do this in your area, typically it's centered around heart health month or something like that.

No cycling is not enough. Thinking "I do this" therefore "that" will never happen is not too bright. Better to have a complete picture.

Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
I have reluctantly concluded cycling alone isn't enough to prevent heart disease and other aging related diseases
- My grandpa lived to almost 100, never exercised and ate like a garbage can. Smoked a pipe and ate red meat almost daily. Therefore the key to a long life is eating red meat, not exercising, smoking a pipe and yelling at the TV. My N of 1 makes about as much sense as your N of 1.

Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
1. Cycling is a non weight bearing activity. While osteoporosis is mostly something that afflicts aging women, men can suffer from atrophy of lean muscle tissue.
????

Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
2. Cycling does nothing for flexibility.
- Nope, not really. Did your friend do anything for flexibility? As others mentioned yoga is great for this. Even a few simple stretches every day can be good.

Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
3. The seasonal nature of cycling for those who live in colder climates. Anybody who tends to lose 15 lbs every summer only to put it back on in the fall or winter knows what I mean.
That's why God invented cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and indoor gyms and his most blessed invention...Zwift. I live in the PNW where we average 45" of snow a year, last year we got over 60". Not exercising because of weather is a poor excuse.

Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
4. Homeostasis. The body adjusts to any one activity and unless you progressively make it harder. Doing the exact same workout means you are actually allowing the body to get less fit as the body adjusts to the same workout every day or every other day. Anybody who has noticed their physique looks pretty much the same as it did last year, or the year before that knows what I mean.
Cross training is certainly a thing.

Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
I am certainly not giving up on riding, but I am no longer planning on relying on cycling as my primary form of exercise. Some might say I am crazy, but I am taking up martial arts, with cycling being a complementary part of my program.
Not one person with half a brain would say you're crazy for NOT using cycling as your only form of exercise. In fact, I've never heard anyone outside of misinformed people insist that one activity alone will be all you need for health, physical fitness or disease prevention. Not one. And if you do hear that from someone, discount their every utterance.

I ride because I love it. That there are some health benefits is nothing more than icing. I do other activities because I enjoy them to. Not once do I do any activity thinking it will prevent some disease, death or anything else. Surest way to stop doing something IMHO.

You slightly mention gaining or losing 15 pounds in the summer/winter with no riding. Who are we kidding, you're in the Clydesdale forum. It's actually kind of sad to see that you didn't even mention diet. Which is something that will effect heart disease even more than exercise or lack thereof. What was your friends diet? More importantly what changes are you going to make to your diet?

Obesity increases risk of heart disease and heart attacks in a huge way. Not only that, you are more at risk for heart disease with obesity even when other indicators like diabetes and high blood pressure are not present.

Keep riding your bike, as long as you enjoy it. Eat better (that should be a number one priority), have your heart scanned, cross train in other activities you like and don't make excuses. As far as martial arts go, I've been a Judoka for a number of years. It, and BJJ, are probably the best martial arts for exercise, fitness, and actually learning how to fight and defend yourself (assuming that matters). Find a decent Judo gym and start rolling. The cardio there will knock you flat, and you'll use a lot of fast twitch muscles (cycling typically focuses mostly on slow twitch) to round out your health and fitness. Avoid any of the older traditional martial arts fads that rely on charging a lot for yearly memberships, charge for "promotions", charge for "belts" and all the other McDojo crap that goes on in many places. For many martial arts gyms out there you're better off spending your money on dance lessons, you get better cardio, more useful skills, and the ladies will flock to you if you can cut a rug. You'll be just as talented in defending yourself after taking Salsa lessons as you will with most TKD training.

Good luck!

Last edited by aplcr0331; 03-14-18 at 04:32 PM.
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Old 03-14-18, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by brawlo View Post
Genetics is a big part. My brother in law was fit and one of those wiry strong guys. No problems. Started feeling faint and sought medical help. Ended up having a faulty heart valve and a 6cm aneurysm on his aorta at the ripe old age of 32! Genetics. A pipe now replaces a section of his aorta and he has a new pig valve in there. Gone fro a ticking time bomb to a second (albeit limited compared to his previous lifestyle) lease on life. A workmate had a low level heart attack at 45 due to a blockage. Very slight very fit guy and a smoker to boot. He showed me his scan of the blockage. All it was was a small section of his aorta looked like someone had pinched it. The muscles in the wall had failed. Doc told him it was totally unrelated to his smoking and just something that he sees happen from time to time.

It is widely known now that certain lifestyle habits can greatly increase your chances of medical issues, but sometimes genetics and just plain bad luck can have you questioning if it is all worth it.

On another note, physical activity is just a small piece of the puzzle. One big factor to keep in mind is that (depending on where you look) active people only burn about 20-30% of their daily calorie expenditure through exercise. What that basically means is that any activity is not going to be some magical bullet. You are only increasing your calorie expenditure by a small margin by even being quite active. Most people get into exercise as a weight loss measure and neglect to pay equal attention to their diet, which is the biggest piece of the puzzle.
This is a really good point. My friend is retired and frankly, outside of his riding and gym routine, is fairly sedentary. This actually occurred to me, that just getting up every morning and going to work accounts for a lot, and in that case, exercise is a bonus. In the case of a retired person, it is possible such a person is actually no more active than a person who works every day but gets no additional exercise.
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