Biking vs Walking: Which is Better for Seniors

APRIL 26, 2022



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Be it younger adults, or people of older age, exercising is the cornerstone of fitness, health, and living happily. Physical exercise embodies not only the physical benefits but also provides mental and psychological benefits. Physical exercise has numerous benefits according to several variables that constitute a specific exercise. These variables can be external (time, place, and age of the person), and internal (type of exercise, aimed muscles and body parts, and intensity of the exercise). For a particular aim of the exercise, these variables must be considered. Take the example of seniors with age over 60 and in need of appropriate exercise. The typical exercise scenarios don’t apply to these seniors because of receding muscle strength, mental stamina, and cardiovascular strength. At such an age, there is a limited number of exercises that are recommended. Biking and Walking are among these exercises. 

How to choose the right exercise for you?

As a rule of thumb, the recommended exercises must embody happiness, and enjoyment at the end. Walking demands less stress on the body and utilizes a limited number of bodily functions to be involved. In terms of the effort involved, it is a significantly lighter exercise compared to biking. Due to its light intensity, the overall health benefits of walking take a long time to appear and are also limited in nature. Walking in groups, however, is a popular way of getting together for seniors which quickly turns into sitting together. The socializing that walking brings to the table, is superior to any exercise for seniors, however least amount of exercise it contains. When thinking about a serious exercise that utilizes maximum bodily functions without putting much stress on the body for seniors, biking is another great contender for this purpose.

Biking is an exercise that involves a greater number of muscles, and mental functions to perform. And so consequently, it strengthens a greater number of the body, and mental functions. A biker can refresh his muscle memory, and physical and mental balance, and put the needed stress on the body for cardio strength without having to carry the body weight. Similarly, the bone strength that is at the receding phase in old age, can be spared from carrying the bodyweight that accumulates in older age. When biking, the strain applied is directed towards the muscle instead of being transferred to the bones that are already brittle due to old age. Both biking and walking have numerous advantages according to their variations. For example, a brisk walk can burn more calories than a normal walk. Likewise, sprint biking can increase the calories use significantly, compared to marathon-style biking.

Research published in the Journal of Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice estimates that “19.3% of people aged 65-99 years (135.6 million) live with diabetes” [1]. As is the case with people with diabetes, the circulation in the lower body is poor and causes major health issues. Moderate cycling enables reduced blood pressure at the feet for aged patients and enables sustained circulation yielding a mitigating effect for diabetes patients. 

Bike Riding vs Walking

The muscle involvement in biking enables the exercise of the full body compared to walking which is limited body exercise. For seniors, a full body exercise must be performed frequently to mitigate any risks of disease attacks that happen due to prolonged muscle inactivity. To keep the heart healthy and beating as young, cardio exercises are necessary. Due to old age, highly intensive exercises are not suitable for seniors due to obvious serious risks involved. To still be able to increase the heart rate, biking is an excellent exercise that reduces strain on the bones and strengthens cardiovascular functions. Another great benefit of biking in the context of exercise is the greater control over speed vs effort. With walking, higher effort means higher speed; and that can cause disorientation due to imbalance caused by speed. On the contrary, exercising effort can be increased without increasing the speed of the bike. This effectively increases the scope and control of exercise to a larger degree without involving dangerous speeds.

Compared to young people, seniors have a relatively smaller energy span, in which they can exercise well. This exercise is then followed by a longer rest. For this reason, an exercise like walking is less effective because of its longer duration. Biking, on the other hand, can achieve better goals in shorter periods and therefore is more suitable for seniors. 

Electric Bikes vs Simpler Bikes

In exercising via biking, an added variation is an electric bike. In electric bikes, pedaling is still needed. However, on steeper hills, or difficult climbs, the electric motor kicks in and assists you in riding the bike. This is a very important feature for bikers of age over 65. It allows a range of additional benefits. For example, if for some reason a senior is unable to kick start a bike, takes it too steep uphill, or is unable to maintain a steady speed, the electric motor can detect the difficulty and provide additional torque needed to overcome the difficulty. The electric bike feature is controllable too. This means you’re always confident with your ride no matter how steep or steady the road is. Similarly, if you’re unsure of your capability in terms of muscle strength to ride along a longer route, you can trust your electric bike. As a senior, you can put in the physical effort and sweat that extra weight that you can easily do, and when you've exhausted the electric bike takes the charge and you can enjoy the ride at the electric motor’s expense. Compared to normal biking, or even walking, electric bikes offer much more flexibility in terms of the effort needed to burn a specific number of calories. People with heart disease will reject the idea of bike riding, even if they had loved bike riding all their life. Ebikes can help rekindle that hobby for real. It shares the strain on your heart with you overseeing how much effort you want to put in. This way your heart gets just enough exercise to slowly strengthen it, without putting excess strain to cause any damage.

Mentally, you’ll always stay in control of the needed exercise that you get from biking. The inner mental rejection that one thinks of, due to the anticipated pain and stress while biking, will be eliminated and you’ll gain significant confidence when riding an e-bike. Many times, a confident mindset is all you need to re-activate your mental strength. The bikes help you achieve that confidence by assisting you in your biking endeavors. Similar to a learning child with a third wheel on his bicycle, the motor on an e-bike strengthens and regrows the confidence of long riding that once was the talk of the town. 

Mental Health Benefits of E-Bike Riding

Electric bikes have thicker tires than traditional bicycles. This makes them harder to puncture, which means you won't have to worry about getting stranded in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire.

And if you do get stranded? The thick tires also provide more stability when walking, so you'll be able to get home safely even if your bike is out-of-service for a while.Some of the internet's most popular electric bikes are designed specifically for senior citizens. In some cases, they're even referred to as "old people electric bikes" by their manufacturers.

While electric bikes in general offer a number of benefits to riders, these electric bikes for seniors often come with additional features that make them especially appealing.These include low seats and large wheels, as well as safety features such as electric brakes, hand-operated throttle controls, and lights. Second, electric bikes have more gears than traditional bicycles.

Which means less strain on joints and muscles as you ride.

No need for those awkward foot straps that can sometimes cause senior riders to trip--electric bikes make it possible for you to pedal at whatever pace is most comfortable without worrying about falling over!Third, electric bikes can be equipped with lights and turn signals at night or in dark environments, which has a good safety effect on seniors' riding experience.

Another way these bikes help seniors is by making it easier for them to control their speed without having to worry about falling over or crashing into something else.Let's say you're on an electric bike and need some extra power in order to climb up a hill or make it through traffic: all you have to do is turn down your bike's pace setting (or "throttle") so that your wheels aren't spinning as fast anymore--and voila!

Another potential danger is the inability to accelerate up hills. If a car comes at you while you're climbing a hill and you can't accelerate fast enough, there's a chance you could be hit by the car. E-bikes have motors that help you climb hills quickly so that you can avoid accidents like these.

Preparing for Bike Riding

You might be all ready to get your e-bike out and ride away. But we wouldn’t recommend you do just that right now. You must review a few tips, a rule of thumb on places to visit (or avoid visiting), and a few medicines that might come in handy when riding your bike. First, being a rider requires following the safety and health rules of the country you ride a bike in. The topmost important safety gear is a helmet. It not only protects you from a serious head injury, but it also reminds your fellow riders to take similar safety measures to ensure their safety too. Another great tip to remain in the best shape during bike riding is to keep a spare tube and compact toolbox to replace the tube if need be. 

What is the right time for bike riding?

Just like all exercises and sports timing plays a vital role in reaping effective and full benefits. For seniors, the timing takes a central role because a relatively higher or lower temperature in the environment can awfully impact the body temperature causing unintended results and even reversing the benefits of exercise. Typically, morning time is recommended for biking if the temperature is not too low. In the morning, a body is well-rested, and the mind is sharp. Therefore, the exercise can yield the best results in terms of burnt calories, as well as the opportunity to socialize and begin the day with positive energy.

Where should you go to enjoy bike riding?

A typical good place for biking should be partially covered with trees for a fresh air pollution-free environment and include small highs and lows so that higher intensity biking is not needed in the first place. The recommended place for biking is larger parks or clear roads on the outskirts of the main town. It is a good idea to have first aid kits attached to the bike or remain with the group leader in case a need arises. Along the same lines, it is important to not roam far away from the city. This is recommended because of health reasons, as a rider may need medical assistance, and at seniors’ age, a delay in medical assistance can prove fatal.

What are typical medical supplies you may need during bike riding? 

Bikers must include a first aid kit on their trip. This kit must possess sterile gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, cream or gel for burns, hand cleaners, band-aids, and antibiotic ointment. It is also recommended that at least one of the bikers in the group has first aid training with experience. Sports and Exercise are good if the health and safety precautions are taken seriously so that full benefits of the exercise can be availed without any danger or risks involved. It is also recommended that the seniors consult their family doctor for relevant medicine to keep with them. 

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