Protecting Your Brain While You Cycle to Exercise Your Body

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • It’s springtime where I live. The temperatures are warming up, the trees have sprouted new leaves, and the wildflowers are in bloom. This combination means that it’s an excellent time to move the exercise regimen to outdoors. This spring I’ve vowed to get back to cycling. It’s a great workout and a wonderful way to view the scenery. But before I go, I need to do one thing – reevaluate my bike helmet. That task is at the top of my list since a properly-fitting helmet is critically important in preventing head injuries from bicycle crashes. Those head injuries can lead to memory loss, which obviously I (along with everyone else who has a history of dementia in their family) would like to avoid.

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    Therefore, it’s important to wear the proper head protection. The website of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, which is a consumer-funded organization with a volunteer staff, provides the following key information:
    -    Cost is not important. BHSI submitted six helmet models to a leading U.S. test lab. Three cost between $150-$200 while the other three cost less than $20. The impact test results came back the same, and there were few differences in performance among helmets. “Our conclusion: when you pay more for a helmet you may get an easier fit, more vents and snazzier graphics. But the basic impact protection of the cheap helmets we tested equaled the expensive ones,” BHSI’s website reports.
    -    Look for evidence of meeting standards. When buying a helmet, look the sticker that shows that the helmet meets the standard set by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
    -    Update if needed. If you purchased your helmet in the 1970s or if the outside is just foam or cloth instead of plastic, you need to purchase a new one.

    According to the Mayo Clinic website, the rules for wearing a bicycle helmet are the same, whether the rider is a child or an adult. These rules are:
    -    Wear the helmet flat on the top of your head.
    -    Make sure the helmet covers the top of your forehead without tilting forward or backward, and the straps form a V shape under each ear.
    -    Fasten the chin strap below your chin — not to the side or along your jaw.
    -    If the bicycle helmet rocks from side to side or front to back, use the foam sizing pads that came with the helmet to get a better fit.

    You also need to make sure that the helmet fits snugly. The Mayo Clinic website warns, “You shouldn't be able to move the bicycle helmet more than one inch in any direction, front to back or side to side. The sizing pads included with every bicycle helmet can help make the fit more secure. If you have long hair, consider a helmet with a ponytail port.”

    In addition, you need to think about visibility for both yourself and others. “If the bicycle helmet straps block your vision — even a little bit — choose another helmet,” the Mayo Clinic website states. “Likewise, make sure motorists and other cyclists can see you. Choose a white or brightly colored helmet. Some helmets even come with lights.”

  • And if you are in an accident, plan on purchasing a new helmet. “Even if the helmet looks undamaged, it may not be able to withstand the force of another blow,” the Mayo Clinic website advises.

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    Bicycling is a great form of exercise, but you need to make sure you’re properly prepared. One way is to make sure that you are wearing a properly fitting helmet. That way, your helmet will take the impact of the fall instead of your brain.

Published On: May 12, 2010