pedaling to a healthier heart

Did you know cycling and cardiovascular fitness hand in hand … or shall we say hand in heart?

It already has been proven that exercise improves our mental and physical well-being. But adding physical activity to your daily life shouldn’t feel overwhelming. By participating in an activity you enjoy, you are choosing the road to a healthier lifestyle. Cardiovascular exercise increases the heart rate, which in turn, strengthens your heart muscle, helps to manage weight, and lowers blood pressure.

Walking, swimming, dancing, and riding a bike are all excellent ways to achieve these goals. Bicycling is a wonderful activity that you can do on your own or with family and friends … inside or outside. Also, cycling allows you to take in the scenery, which awakens your senses and helps to improve your mood.

I am an avid cyclist and enjoy the heart health benefits of pedaling – either as a means of transportation or recreation.

Bicycling is a big part of my life. It gives me the energy and stamina I need to do my job every day. The most important thing I tell my patients is to find something you like to do and stick with it. Your heart and the rest of your body will thank you now and in the future.

How Does Cycling Help Your Heart?

In a recent study published in the journal Circulation, it was discovered that people who biked regularly had about 15 percent fewer heart attacks than non-cyclists. Even small amounts of time devoted to the activity were linked to lower rates of heart disease.

Dr. Morris cycling in Bald Eagle State Forest.

Those who cycle on a regular basis, however, experience fewer cardiovascular events. These results show that cycling is beneficial for cardiovascular health. As with any activity, it’s important to practice safety first. This includes wearing the proper equipment and preparing your body for the exercise itself.


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What Do You Need to Start Cycling?

When cycling outdoors, a helmet to protect your head, reflectors on your bike to be seen by motor vehicles, and a water bottle to ensure proper hydration, are essential. Warming up and cooling down afterward helps your heart move gradually from rest to activity and back again, along with decreasing the risk of injury or soreness.

Many people don’t feel it is necessary to cool down, but it’s important. If you stop too quickly, you can experience muscle cramping.

If regular exercise has not been a part of your lifestyle or you are resuming physical activity, start slow. Be sure to consult your health care professional – especially if you have cardiovascular disease or any other preexisting condition, but don’t be afraid of elevating your heart rate, either.

Without moving the body, people are more likely to have health problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. On the other hand, regular physical activity helps to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and lower the risk of becoming obese. It also lowers your risk of developing hypertension, prediabetes, or high triglycerides.

What Else Can You Do If You Don’t Like Cycling?

Although I enjoy biking on the road, the great outdoors doesn’t appeal to everyone. If a stationary bike or spin class is more your speed, you’re in od company. Group classes like spinning appeal to an audience of all ages and can offer a dynamic workout. All are led by a certified instructor and set to motivating music. Most fitness centers provide classes for different fitness levels and classes. The classes usually last 45 to 60 minutes, which also happens to be the daily recommended time for getting the most benefit from physical activity.

Whether peddling inside or out, it’s important to always stay in tune with your body and maintain a pace that feels comfortable depending on your al. Increasing your time and intensity should be done slowly and with your doctor’s permission.

How Hard Should I Cycle?

Knowing your target heart rate is also key to making the most of every workout. Target zones fall within 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. This is calculated by subtracting your age from 220. So, for someone who is 40 years old, their maximum target heart rate would be 180 beats per minute (bpm).

Basically, if your heart rate is too high, you’re straining if it is too low, you can increase the intensity. When you are starting a new exercise routine, it is important to aim for the lower range of your target zone (approximately 50 percent of the maximum). Then gradually build up the intensity over time.

How Do Cardiovascular Exercises Benefit Your Heart?

Cycling is an excellent aerobic exercise that helps your heart, blood vessels, and lungs to get a workout. Riders can choose their level of intensity based on their current health status or personal al.  By adding hills or distance to your ride, you engage more muscles, burn additional calories, and improve your overall cardiovascular fitness.

During any cardiovascular workout, people breathe deeper, sweat, and increase body temperature, which improves your overall fitness level. Additional benefits of regular cycling include:

  • Increased cardiovascular fitness
  • Increased muscle strength and flexibility
  • Improved joint mobility
  • Improved moods
  • Improved posture and coordination
  • Decreased body fat percentage
  • Prevention or management of disease
  • Reduced cancer risk
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Lowered risk of dementia

Fitness trackers and electronic health apps are popular in tracking progress and staying motivated. Whatever your goals or level of fitness, my colleagues and I encourage you to put the wheels of better health in motion by finding an activity you enjoy and make it a part of your everyday lifestyle.

For more information about improving your cardiovascular health and to get in touch with our team of cardiologists, please visit us at

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About UPMC Harrisburg

UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.

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