Are you ever too old to cycle? Of course not! One of the best things about riding a bike is that age and ability is seldom a barrier. From trikes and tandems to electric, folding and adapted bikes, there are makes and models to suit just about all comers.
I was reminded of this recently when I read about a new study that suggested taking up exercise in your 60s will still help stave off major ill health and dementia. Reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, it followed 3,500 healthy people at or around retirement age. Those who regularly exercised were three times more likely to remain healthy over the next eight years, not suffering from any serious mental or physical illness, rather than their sedentary counterparts.
Researchers said that, naturally enough, exercising regularly throughout your life is best, but even if you start late there are definite health benefits. Dr Mark Hamer from University College London said: “The take-home message really is to keep moving when you are elderly.” He said that it didn’t necessarily mean going to the gym or taking in part in vigorous aerobic exercise, but regular walks or cycle rides as part of everyday life also mattered. Indeed, it’s claimed that if you cycle for an extra half an hour on most days of the week, together with a reduction in calorie intake, you can lose as much weight as that achieved by doing three aerobic classes a week. And isn’t cycling in the fresh air so much more pleasurable than going to a gym?!
According to the Department of Health, adults (18 and over) should do 150 minutes of physical activity every week. (Young people aged 5-18 should do 60 minutes every day and children under five should do 180 minutes every day, by the way.) Provided you have the right equipment, choose your route carefully and don’t over-stretch yourself, cycling can be particularly beneficial to older people because it’s good all-round exercise that is low impact. The smooth and regular movement associated with a gentle ride along one of the traffic-free trails of the Peak District does wonders for your muscles and joints, heart and lungs, not to mention the emotional and psychological benefits it brings. The British Heart Foundation says that cycling at least 20 miles a week cuts by 50% your risk of heart disease, compared to non-cyclists who take no exercise. Wow.
If you haven’t cycled for many years, perhaps worried about how you’ll handle a bike again, then check out our pages on Guided rides and Instruction. Speak to the experienced people at the likes of Thornbridge Outdoors (on the Monsal Trail) and Cycle Penistone (on the Trans Pennine Trail) to see whether they can arrange guided rides or short sessions to give you confidence.
Hiring a bike for a few hours and gently exploring a trail is a good way to get back into the saddle – check out our hire page; but another option is to hire an electric bike from somewhere like Hassop Station on the Monsal Trail. You still have to pedal an electric bike, but it does gives give you that extra assistance and reassurance – and the slopes don’t seem quite so daunting!
The other day I called in briefly to the Old Smithy Café at Monyash, a long-time favourite of cyclists and mountain bikers. As I left, a small party of male road racers was pulling up, no doubt heading inside for a plate of something hot before they returned to far-off Nottinghamshire or Staffordshire or whatever distant parts they came from. The men were lean, strong, wiry and no doubt super fit from decades of regular cycling. And they must each have been 70 years of age and upwards.
As H.G. Wells is supposed to have said: “Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.”