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Ride Your Bike!
Take Up Cycling for a Great Low-Impact Cardio Workout

Cycling is an excellent form of low-impact cardio that is easy on your joints and great for your heart.

Last year, my regular running partner Amy started feeling consistent pain in her hips during and after runs. When it became so bad that she felt pain even on her rest days, she went to see her doctor. He diagnosed her with hip bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa outside of the hip that can be treated but often become a recurrent injury. Luckily, Amyís doctor told her that she could still run once she was healed, but suggested that she replace some of her regular runs with low-impact aerobic exercise to decrease the risk of another injury.

Since Amy had great memories of riding her bike as a kid, she decided on cycling three or four times a week. She found that it is an awesome way to get her cardio in without pummeling her joints and remembered how much fun it is.

Aerobic exercise, or cardio, is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle. Described as a continuous activity that works major muscle groups while increasing heart and respiratory rates over a sustained period of time, aerobic exercise:
  • Reduces risk of diabetes and fatality due to cardiovascular disease or other problems
  • Strengthens the heart, cardiovascular system and lungs 
  • Boosts circulation 
  • Increases lung capacity and red blood cell count 
  • Reduces resting heart rate and blood pressure 
  • Increases oxygen circulation 
  • Boosts metabolism 
  • Burns fat and calories 
  • Reduces stress
  • Promotes better sleep
Itís also a powerful, lean-muscle building performance enhancer for athletes. Not only does it increase blood flow throughout muscles and allow muscles to more efficiently use fat, it also increases energy and endurance and reduces recovery time.
Both high and low impact aerobic exercise provide the above benefits, but low impact exercises (like cycling or swimming) are gentler on the joints than high impact exercises. Low impact exercises are typically performed at a lower speed and intensity than high impact. This makes them great for people with injuries, with joint, heart or cardiovascular problems, and those who are just beginning an exercise regimen.

You may be thinking that low-impact exercise sounds a little too low-intensity, maybe even boring, especially if youíre used to the adrenaline boost of a strenuous workout. Luckily, low impact cardio can be just as rewarding as high impact and, as Amy has found, a lot of fun. Always an adventurer with a competitive streak, she has traveled around the Pacific Northwest with her bike in tow. She has been mountain biking at Whistler Mountain Bike Park in Whistler, B.C., cycled around Vancouver, B.C.ís beautiful Stanley Park and hit some of the countryís best bike trails in Washington State. She even completed the Masters Road National Championships in Bend, OR last September.

Before Amyís injury, I had not really given much thought to low impact exercises, even when my own body felt a bit rickety from overdoing high impact workouts. Thanks to her, I learned that I can still get a great workout while giving my joints a break from running once in a while. And I had no idea that there were so many cool things for a cyclist to do! I started replacing a couple of runs with trips to the bike trail and I love it. Like running, it gets my heart rate up and my stress level down and afterward my joints definitely thank me!

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