Cycling Offers Health Benefits and Dangers for Older Riders

Patient Expert

This morning when I took my car in for servicing at the dealership, I noticed there was a hint of autumn’s cool temperatures. We all appreciate it since we’ve endured a little over a month of temperatures that were in the high 90s and felt like in the high 100s. So these cooler morning temperatures made me think about long walks with my dog and getting back on my bicycle to tour the neighborhoods.

However upon returning home and making breakfast listening to the radio, an NPR story warned that bikers who are at 45 years of age and older are seen more being admitted in hospitals. The story also noted that the death rate of cyclists between the ages of 35-54 over the past 40 years has tripled whereas the rate among child cyclists has plummeted. One researcher suggests that the increase in riders in this age bracket is due to the publicity of Lance Armstrong (prior to his disgrace). The challenge becomes that older adults who are riding bikes and are thrown off of their bikes are more likely to have more injuries.

So what should you be doing to remain safe whether you’re a long-time cyclist or a periodic one with hopes of getting back into the bike seat (like I do)? Here are some suggestions:

  • Wear a helmet. So how do you pick a helmet? This video provides a good overview on how to choose a cycle helmet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhbnJhQVC-s
  • Wear reflective gear, such as reflective vests, pant clips, bags and jackets.
  • Add more reflective bling to help you stand out. Use lights and add reflective decals, tassels and other types of equipment to your bike (or yourself) when riding at night. These additions help get motorists’ attention and alert them that you’re cycling on the road with them.
  • Ride defensively. Triathlete.com offers some great tips to help your ride defensively. These include coming to a full-stop at every stop sign and red light and putting a foot down and being hyper vigilant when making a left hand turn.
  • Know the rules of the roads. Cyclists are required to follow the same laws as other drivers. If you need a refresher course (and who doesn’t), the League of American Bicyclists offers a good overview.
  • Encourage your local governmental officials to do their part. That includes posting slower speeds on roads that have bike paths, adding a specific bike lane, and encouraging motorists to respect cyclists on the road.

Biking is a great, low-impact way to exercise as we get older. However, we need to take appropriate precautions to maintain our safety as we hit the road.

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Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

Doucleff, M. (2015). As More Adults Pedal, Their Biking Injuries and Deaths Spike, Too. NPR.org.

Fiegelman, S. (2015). 9 Safe Bike Riding Tips. Triathelte.Com.

Sherryl, J. (2013). Safety Flair: Our Favorite Reflective Cycling Gear. Bicycling.com.