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Your Healthy Family: Cycling in many forms brings multiple health benefits

Posted at 5:56 AM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 07:59:24-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — This week, June 22nd - June 28th News5 is joining the city of Colorado Springs and other partners for Bike to Biz week. June is Bike Month in Colorado and we usually celebrate a bike to work day, but that isn’t possible this year because of social distancing and the pandemic.

Instead, we’re encouraging people to ride their bicycle to local businesses who because of the pandemic also need to be supported.

Dr. Gloria Winters, the Chief Medical Officer with the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region says getting on a bicycle anytime, can have a positive effect on your health.

“When you are out on a bike and you can pass lakes, trees and wildflowers blooming it revitalizes parts of our body we didn't know were being challenged or deficient. One of the secondary benefits of cycling are benefits to the immune system. Biking also improves the cardiovascular system and provides a boost to brain power. All the little neurons are firing and dopamine is released in the brain and provides a boost in mood, enhancing the desire to actually take part in social activities.”

Dr. Winters also says to receive these health benefits, you don't have to be a hard core cyclist committed to riding for exercise or racing. “What we find is its cumulative exercise through the week that is going to bring the benefit. You don't have to do it all at once, it can be here and there. Then when you start to make it a habit and you're going to bike to work. If it's five miles, one mile, eleven miles, it is going to have a benefit on your body and have a benefit long term.”

Compared to other forms of cardiovascular exercise, Dr. Winters says cycling is easier on your knees and joints and it doesn't matter if you are doing it indoors on a stationary bike or in the great outdoors. “Here at the YMCA we provide many cycling programs for people who have joint issues. They like to bike because it does have less impact and less pain for their joints.”

Dr. Winters also says cycling also has the ability to maintain cognitive health and even improve it in many cases. “We provide programs (at the YMCA) for people with Parkinson’s disease. Pedaling for Parkinson’s is a huge program we have that decreases the progression of the disease, it also can reverse the stages. The bradykinesia, the tremors, the rigidity It decreases all of those. It’s fantastic for people with functional limitations and it also boosts mood, cognitive ability and the immune system. Parkinson's is an issue in an area of the brain, called the substantia nigra. Part of it is decreased production of dopamine which actually starts to affect the muscular skeletal system and the way the body moves as well as cognition. With exercise like biking or any exercise we want to produce dopamine and that’s important for people without Parkinson's, but even more so for those with Parkinson's.”

Riding a bike can also help with other serious medical conditions says Dr. Winters. “We also recommend cycling for our patients with cancer, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. With all those conditions boosting the immune system, boosting the cardiovascular system and your strength is going to address all those things.”

For more on the YMCA's cycling programs in the Pikes Peak region, including those that can boost brain function and fight cognitive disease, you can visit their webpage (HERE)'s-exercise-program