Take The Ride Route To Fitness
Jun 29, 2013 02:51PM
● By Bill Simpson
Bicycling is both a fantastic fitness activity and a lot of fun, and Pennsylvania Dutch Country provides better biking opportunities than any other region of the country, because our area gives bicyclists an ample supply of the single factor that they value most–roads with few or no cars on them. We live in truly a spectacular place to pedal.
Fitness is a great motivation to start riding, and biking builds strong, healthy bodies in many ways. It is especially good for the heart, lungs and leg muscles, and it’s an excellent way to burn calories. In fact, biking ranks close to the top of the list for calorie-burning ability, and because riding is such a comfortable activity, cyclists can go for hours and hours. The calories burned by an hour of cycling at a moderate pace are similar to those expended during a competitive basketball game or cross-country skiing at a moderate level. A cyclist that pedals at 20 miles per hour burns close to the number of calories as a runner doing a five-and-a-half minute mile, according to the diet and fitness tracking website Nutristrategy.com.
Yet, cycling is so much more than just a calorie burner. While the legs do most of the labor, every part of the body gets into the action. The arms work to steer and control the bike and the muscles of the back, glutes and abdomen are strengthened, while the lungs get a fantastic workout, as well.
One fitness challenge for many people is to find an activity that they like and will continue to do for a long, long time. Because biking is so enjoyable, it fills that need. One of its most pleasurable aspects is that it can take a rider much closer to nature. On a bike, it’s easy to pull over and talk to a horse or pick some wild berries. As Ernest Hemingway observed, “You have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”
The roads of Pennsylvania Dutch Country are ideal for riding for hours with minimal interference from cars. Diane Lausman of Lancaster, a rider who has put in tens of thousands of miles, says she never tires of pedaling through Lancaster County. “We have beautiful country roads, lots of covered bridges, rolling terrain and challenging hills.” Her favorite ride depends on which way the wind is blowing. “I’ll ride into the wind at the beginning, so that I’ll have it at my back coming home. We take these great biking opportunities for granted, but people in cities don’t have anything like this.”
Biking also has a utilitarian value that most fitness activities cannot match. You can pedal to work, shop or just about anywhere else. Kathi Markley, of Lancaster, uses her bike for the purely practical purpose of getting to work. “I’ve been a bike commuter for the past nine years, and I’ve found that bike commuting is a great way to unwind after a hard day’s work.”
Another biking benefit that many cyclists enjoy is better sleep. Vigorous exercise frequently has the dual advantages of invigorating participants during the day and then helping them sleep better at night. However, for those with a busy day ahead, it is wise not to get carried away with a strenuous two-hour workout in the morning that will have them dragging in the afternoon.
Though some people might see cycling as a solo sport, local bicycle clubs provide support and camaraderie for beginners as well as experienced riders. Lancaster and Berks counties both have very active bicycle clubs that welcome newcomers and have coordinated rides for cyclists of all levels of experience:
Connect with these local bicycle clubs at LancasterBikeClub.org or BerksBicycle.com.
Bill Simpson is a Lancaster-based writer who has ridden thousands of miles on the country roads of Lancaster and Berks counties. He is the author of Short Bike Rides in Eastern Pennsylvania.
Calorie Counts for Exercise
Here are the calories burned in one hour of each of the following activities by a 155-pound person.
Cycling, 12-13.9 mph–563
Cycling, 20 mph–1126
Basketball game, competitive–563
Crew, sculling, rowing, competition–844
Cross-country skiing, moderate–563
Ice skating, average speed–493
Running, 10-minute mile–704
Running, 5½-minute mile–1267
Swimming, freestyle, slow–493
Walking 4 mph–352