Ron Davis, a 69 year old Vietnam War Veteran has one more big item on his bucket list. On March 31st Davis will set out from San Diego California and ride his Trek 920 touring bicycle across the country ending his journey in Ocean City New Jersey. Davis guesses that this 3,000 mile ride will take him roughly 10 – 12 weeks. He points out that after all he is retired and in no particular rush[i]. Davis is not the first senior to rediscover the joy of cycling in their later years. Pushing the pedals provides an aerobic workout, great for the heart, brain, and blood vessels; Aerobic exercise also triggers the release of endorphins – the feel good chemicals. Cycling may be the thing keeping this Vietnam Vet young at heart.
There are a lot of anecdotal remarks circulating the web with headlines such as “grow old gracefully” and “biking turns strangers into friends”. Let’s face it, everyone’s experience is different and not everyone is going to have the ability or interest in biking across the country. Alongside the anecdotes scientific research is starting to delve deeper into the subject and is coming up with some intriguing findings. US national data shows that the time senior citizens spend in sedentary activity contributes significantly to disability in activities of daily living (ADL) regardless of time spend in moderate or vigorous activity.[ii] Meaning that sedentary activities contribute to disability regardless of how much other exercise was done. The great news here is that biking is relatively easy on the joints and can be used for both recreation and transportation, so the opportunity to spend more time being active is high. Every hour somebody is on a bike is an hour they’re doing themselves good! Cycling builds muscle and the benefits carry over to everyday activities like balance, walking, standing, stair climbing, and endurance.[iii]
[ii] Dunlop, D. D. PHD. Sedentary time in US older adults associated with disability in activities of daily living independent of physical activity national center for biotechnical information