All last week on our Daily Tonic Show, a programme specially made for seniors during lockdown, our ‘Tonic Topic’ was about cycling, as it was national cycling week. Because of this, I thought a blog about seniors and cycling with links to useful resources may be handy!
Firstly, we know that exercise is good for our physical and mental health. Our bodies are made to move! Age UK have put together some information and advice on keeping active as older adults: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/exercise/
If you feel cycling is something that you want to get into, and because you’re physically able to, then why not give it a go!
According to a BBC report, exercising in older age can prevent the immune system from declining and protect people against infections:
Prof Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, at the University of Birmingham, and co-author of the research, said: “The immune system declines by about 2-3% a year from our 20s, which is why older people are more susceptible to infections, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer.”
“Because the cyclists have the immune system of a 20-year-old rather than a 70- or 80-year-old, it means they have added protection against all these issues.”
The researchers looked at markers in the blood for T-cells, which help the immune system respond to new infections.
Researchers also believe that being physically active at an older age will also help your body respond better to vaccines and so better protecting yourself against the flu. So, plenty of reasons to get on your bike!
Many of us, including myself, have an old bike stored away gathering dust and cobwebs! If you are going to get back on the bike, make sure that it is safe to do so and it’s a good idea to have your bike properly checked over. Halfords currently do a free bike check, but there are many independent bike shops that would also check over your bike: https://www.halfords.com/bikes/
If your bike is a bit of a dinosaur, then think about purchasing a new one. They have much improved over the years making them far more comfortable than years gone by. Suspension and light aluminium frames will really help. Think about the type of bike that could suit your needs. You can buy a bike specifically for commuting, off road, mixed use (often referred to as hybrid bikes), folding bikes for taking on public transport and electric bikes.
Now, electric bikes are fantastic for assisting with your cycling and can make hills feel like a breeze, of course you don’t have to switch the electric on if you don’t feel you need to. They do come at a price though but are becoming hugely popular. Again Halfords are a good place to get an idea of what is on the market: https://www.halfords.com/bikes/
and so is Decathlon: https://www.decathlon.co.uk/C-10828-cycling
Always make sure you wear a helmet and reflective clothing. It’s important to be seen – and again, only attempt to get back on your bike if you feel able to do so. Check with your GP if you are unsure about taking on any exercise. Here’s the NHS guide for cycling for beginners: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/cycling-for-beginners/
Bike Munk have written an article including lots of tips for seniors who wish to cycle: https://bikemunk.com/cycling-ageing/
There are plenty of other articles online if you do a simple ‘Cycling for Seniors’ search. Searching for bike routes in your area is also a great idea!