Cycling has to be one of the more pleasant ways to exercise. Your feet don’t get tired, you can move along fairly quickly, and watch the scenery go by, and even if you have to go up a hill, you usually get to go down one too. Your bike can take you anywhere, provided you are sufficiently decked out for the journey. All you need is a good helmet, some sun block, a water bottle, and a few snacks.
Cycling has been proven to exert a number of health benefits. It can improve your muscle tone, for one. The more muscle you have, the less fat you are likely to carry on your stomach, legs, and arms. Cycling can also improve your respiratory fitness, making it easier to deal with the oxygen needs of everyday tasks like climbing the stairs or shovelling the driveway. Cycling reduces stress and improves you cardiovascular fitness. Exercise, in any form, helps your body to better manage blood sugar levels, lessening your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
All of these reasons combined might help to explain the results from a recent interesting study conducted by some folks in France. The researchers, from the Paris Descartes University, originally set out to study the dark side of cycling: premature deaths from crashes, intense physical exertion, and other mortality causes.
To acquire their data, the research team turned to competitors who had participated in the Tour de France between the years of 1947 and 2012. The Tour de France is a gruelling race, to be sure. It covers some 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers), with portions of the route winding through the mountain ranges of the Pyrenees and the Alps. Not only are riders at risk of dangerous falls and collisions, they are pushing their bodies to the absolute limit to finish first.
When the researchers originally collected data on the Tour competitors, they thought they would find that the cyclists would have shorter lives and an increased risk for mortality when compared with the average person. What they discovered, in fact, was the exact opposite.
The researchers compared overall and disease-specific mortalities of the cyclists with the general French male population. Among the competitors studied, 26% died by September 2012. Neoplasms (cancerous tumors) and cardiovascular diseases accounted for 61% of the deaths. However, when these statistics were compared with the French population, the researchers found that the cyclists had a 41% lower mortality rate. This is a significant drop that the researchers attribute to the positive effects of high-level sports activity. These positive effects seem to supersede any negative effects from doping or excessive physical exercise.
While it’s not necessary to begin training for the Tour de France to ensure you live a long life, cycling three or four times a week could be your ticket to a healthier, stronger body that can better withstand the challenges of aging. Follow the Tour competitors approach and get a little long distance work combined with some hill work when you jump on your bike for exercise. Don’t forget to eat a healthy diet too and remember to rehydrate!
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Marijon, E., et al., “Mortality of French participants in the Tour de France (1947-2012),” Eur Heart J. Sept 3, 2013.
“Cycle of life? Study finds Tour de France riders live 6.3 years longer,” CTV News web site, Sept. 4, 2013; http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/cycle-of-life-study-finds-tour-de-france-riders-live-6-3-years-longer-1.1439877, last accessed Sept. 10, 2013.