Contributing Author: Lou Anna Red Corn, Fayette (KY) Commonwealth’s Attorney
In a 1930 letter to his son, Albert Einstein wrote “it is the same with people as it is riding a bike. Only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance.” A different translation of Einstein’s German to English is, “life is like riding a bicycle — in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
We have all seen the photographs of the great physicist riding his bike — he genuinely seemed to enjoy it. Whether his predilection for peddling contributed to his genius or not, it is well-established that cardio-respiratory fitness from biking, swimming, and walking helps improve our memory and thinking — even as we age.
May is National Bike Month, and in the spirit of the Mary Poppins employer George Banks, instead of flying a kite — let’s go ride a bike!
According to BikeRadar, the benefits of bicycling go well beyond smarts — want softer stools and a better sex life? Ride a bike. BikeRadar cites experts from Bristol University who say the beneﬁts of cycling extend deep into your core. “Physical activity helps decrease the time it takes food to move through the large intestine, limiting the amount of water absorbed back into your body and leaving you with softer stools, which are easier to pass,” explains Harley Street gastroenterologist Dr. Ana Raimundo. In addition, aerobic exercise accelerates your breathing and heart rate, which helps to stimulate the contraction of intestinal muscles. “As well as preventing you from feeling bloated, this helps protect you against bowel cancer,” Dr. Raimundo says.
And as for an improved sex life, again, according to BikeRadar “being more physically active improves your vascular health, which has the knock-on effect of boosting your sex drive, according to health experts in the US. One study from Cornell University also concluded that male athletes have the sexual prowess of men two to ﬁve years younger, with physically ﬁt females delaying the menopause by a similar amount of time. Meanwhile, research carried out at Harvard University found that men over 50 who cycle for at least three hours a week have a 30 per cent lower risk of impotence than those who do little exercise.”
Of course, cycling benefits our well-being beyond the bathroom and the bedroom. Bicycling helps us beat illness, live longer, sleep better, and feel better.
It’s never too late to begin — or begin again — riding a bike. Most communities have some programming for adults. Not sure where to go? Check out the League of American Bicyclists’ map for shops, instructors, events and more in your area. Unfortunately, if you are planning on purchasing a new bike, you may find that the bike shortage of the pandemic hasn’t gone away completely. Still, the local bike shop is the place to start. Many shops sell used bikes or can help you get your old bike back into riding condition.
Before hitting the road take a moment to brush up on bicycle safety rules. These include safety tips like wearing a helmet, checking your equipment, seeing and being seen by wearing bright colors (thus another reason for florescent spandex), using the proper hand signals to indicate turns and when you can, making eye contact with drivers at corners and crossings.
Make sure you know the rules of the road, which vary by jurisdiction, like riding with the flow of traffic, obeying traffic signals, and being alert to the sounds around you (i.e., no earbuds or headphones.)
And splurge on a couple things like padded and chamois-lined bike shorts and a bell. Padded shorts make the ride and your backside better. During the pandemic, my husband and I decorated our bike spokes with crepe paper and rang our bike bells as we passed children on the streets. It was always sure to bring a smile — even from the adults.
Still not convinced? Watch the movie or even just the trailer for one of the best bicycling movies ever — Breaking Away. When teenage Dave Stoller discovers the joys of bicycling his non-supportive father observed, “he’s never tired — he’s never miserable. When I was young, I was tired and miserable.”
Don’t want to be tired or miserable anymore? Ride a bike!