As an over-50 cyclist, I continue to feel so many tangible benefits from my road riding. I’ve no doubt the same benefits can be had from any other kind of cycling, or exercise for that matter when done with a mind for it. For me, road cycling is where I’m at now at this time of my life. Thing is, I find that the health and wellbeing benefits I get from road cycling just come on their own. I don’t even need to have a mind particularly attuned to “health”, I just have to get out and ride. And for me that’s the simple beauty of it. I love my cycling. And just by doing something I love, I also reap health benefits. It’s a no-brainer haha, right? So hello, Dear Reader, it’s great to have you back! Thank you for joining in. What’re we discussing here? Let’s see…
Cycling and its asthma fixin’, cardio-benefittin’ facts for over 50s (and everyone else)!
I wrote here a while back about how my road cycling helped cure my asthma and it’s at times like these over the cold, immunity-suppressing months of winter that being free of asthma is truly a Godsend. So I’d like to look into the respiratory and pulmonary benefits of road cycling as well as outlining what I imagine are not difficult to uncover facts about road cycling and its benefits to cardio-vascular health.
I’ve no idea if the approach I took to clear myself of the curse of asthma would work for anyone else. Maybe if you’re in the hopeless position I felt that I was, you’d also pretty much try anything? I’d love to imagine it offering some help or at least food for thought for any of you whose cycling (or life) is controlled by asthma and it’s concomitant need for medication.
But I’ve found being asthma-free has resulted in the ability to continue riding, getting out and reaping the myriad other health benefits that I’ve been talking about in this series of four posts and videos. Especially over the winter when the colder air constricts the airways of even the best of riders, let alone those – as I was myself – held back by the asthma. For me, since I rid myself of it I never cease to be amazed at my ability to continue riding in fog as I was in that recent vid. And likewise, it’s always a relief to be able to manage chest infections and minimize the recuperation time afterwards as I mentioned in my first ride back after the flu for 10 days over Christmas.
The psychological factor in asthma
I don’t know about you, but for me there was a very distinctive psychological input into the severity of my asthma symptoms at the time I was most under its control. There was a vicious cycle of fear over the uncontrolled symptoms that would exacerbate the dyspnea (or chest-restricting, breath-shortage) effect that would in turn increase my fear over the uncontrolled symptoms. This does nothing to prevent a full-blown attack. If that’s you, I truly wish you’re able to get to the point I’m at now – and I never thought I would back then! But it’s not just the point that my symptoms have gone, it’s more than that. I’m at the point, and have been for a while (because it’s taken a while to get here too) where…
I don’t consider myself to be an asthmatic any more
What stage are you at in your asthma? How does it affect you? Do you know or have a plan to get rid of it? Do you consider it a lifelong thing? I hope you find your own way through it however you’re fixed. For me, without a doubt, cycling was a major assist in finally getting shot of the asthma. Not my asthma, because that implies ownership of the asthma has been claimed! #subtledifference 🙂 It’s not mine to own. Nor is it yours if you don’t choose! 🙂
Maintaining factors in asthma?
In counselling we often talk of maintaining factors in a client’s difficult emotional or interpersonal situation. What is it that’s happening, what are they thinking or doing that are keeping this negative situation going. And I think for any of us burdened by asthma, it’s a question we gotta ask. We’re responsible for our own wellbeing. Not our medical practitioners. And no, I’m not suggesting ditching the meds! What I am suggesting is that rather than us acting as the helpless victim utterly dependent upon #bigpharma, it’s incumbent on us to accept responsibility. Not for having acquired asthma, no. But for getting rid of it! Don’t accept your lifelong asthma as a fact. It needn’t be. Cycling plays a major part in that if you let it. I mean it worked for me. My asthma, while probably not the world’s most severe case, was certainly a life disability in my estimation. But I got rid of it. I’m not super fit, nor am I super determined. I got to the last straw feeling utterly dependent on medication, my mother got COPD and eventually lung cancer – though she was a smoker. But taking my inhalers like 20+ times per day was frankly ridiculous. I just had enough. I did it therefore so can you! 🙂
I won’t want to get too much into what I’d see as a CBT-based cure for asthma, though I believe it. But back on point, we’re talking cycling haha. I’m too easily sidetracked! Where was I? Lol 😀 So back in my worst days of asthma, cycling was I guess hazardous. I was a mountain-biker in my teens and early 20s. Leaving home without my blue reliever inhaler was a no-no. Finding myself away from home before realizing I’d forgotten it was a cause for panic. It’s that very panic that forms part of the entire psychological foundations that underpin the physiological symptoms of the asthma. And this really is what I mean. If you want to rid yourself of asthma (do you? It’s not always as obvious as we think) then the first step is in making a choice. The choice is, I’m going to be pro-active in getting rid of this. Not just in managing it. Not just in coping with it. But in ridding myself of it. It’s a curse. It’s one that needn’t be yours to own. Sure, had I heard this from someone else back in the day, I’d probably have shrugged it off as ludicrous. But, I’m putting myself up as a testament to fixing asthma by the strength of one’s own will, determination and efforts. And cycling is a key to that. Again, if you’re ready to make a decision, please do check out my article on how I rid myself of asthma with the help of cycling for some thoughts that might at least offer a starting point for your own cure formulation 🙂
But for me one of the maintaining factors besides ownership of the condition is as a cyclist, not getting sufficient ride time particularly over the winter months. I know I can be that way inclined – lazy in other words! – but I sure feel the negative effects when I’m off the bike for any more than a week, and I likewise feel the benefits of it when I do get out. Recently I’ve managed to be more consistent on the bike over the colder, wetter, windier months. And it’s helping in the many ways I’m outlining in this series of four articles and vids on the CyclingQuestions YouTube channel (click to sub) #shamelessplug haha 😀
Cycling for Pulmonary Rehabilitation
As I said, my ol’ mum had COPD. If you have (or know someone with) chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or COPD, you might have heard of pulmonary rehabilitation. It’s a program of exercise and education to assist those with the condition in gaining back a degree of lung health. But the point I’d like to make here, if you need convincing that the bike isn’t gonna make things worse for your asthma rather than better, is that frequently we see cycling used as an integral aspect of pulmonary rehabilitation. In this study on Pulmonary Rehab for COPD, the subjects “…with COPD were assigned to 40 min of cycling, twice-weekly for 12 weeks, either as 30-second intensive intervals (20 times with a 30-second rest interval) or continuously at 50% of baseline peak work rate.” And while I know we’re talking apples and oranges here, the takeaway is that cycling has a definite beneficial therapeutic effect on our pulmonary health. So yeah, cycling! 🙂 #noexcuses
Lastly on the asthma, I think since turning 50 years old myself, I’ve noticed how my cycling wasn’t only a big assist in finally getting shot of the asthma I’d had since I was a schoolboy, but has also been, I feel, instrumental in helping me maintain good pulmonary health. That’s noticeable as I mentioned in coping with and in recovering from chest infections. And I got quite a harsh one over Christmas and was out again on the bike – taking it easy mind as you can see from that video! – but that was only a day or two after. Again, if I can so can you 🙂
And what about cycling and cardio-vascular health?
Haha, what further explanation do I need here? Yes, cycling and cardio health #check 🙂 Again it’s one of those notions that’s intuitively true isn’t it. Anything suggesting otherwise would seem counter-intuitive. That’s possibly why there’s actually not a huge amount of research specifically relating cycling to cardio-vascular health. We got the generally cited, or implied World Health Organization, who has as one of it’s three high level key messages an exortation to… “Engaging in physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day of the week will help to prevent heart attacks and strokes“. Again though, we’re saying cycling equals physical activity therefore cycling is beneficial in preventing heart attacks and strokes. And there’s naturally nothing to disprove that.
But I’ve found proof, if proof were ever needed haha, of a study cited in a brief Harvard Med piece explaining that while… “There’s not a great deal of research on the cardiovascular benefits of biking. Still, a 2016 study in the journal Circulation found that people who biked regularly had about 15% fewer heart attacks than did noncyclists. Even as little as half an hour of biking per week was linked to lower rates of heart disease. Another study found that bicycle commuters were less likely to have conditions that raise heart disease risk (including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or prediabetes) compared with people who used public transit or drove to work.” So there you are, crisis averted haha 😀 #kidding
But in all seriousness, having good heart and circulatory health is something we take for granted until it ain’t there. At my age, I have a few niggles in that regard, the odd arrhythmic episode, which actually I’m grateful for because in a kind of perverse way, it keeps me cycling. While we may not appreciate CV health if we’ve got it, were we not cycling at all, that CV health may not be ours to own, right? So, again if encouragement were needed, get out on ya bike haha 🙂 Especially over winter. I know it’s difficult at times, I know we’re procrastinators in the colder wetter months, maybe some of us are just plain lazy. But you know it’s the thing to do, right? Follow along with my vids on YouTube – they’re all linked to below. I’ll be keeping the pedals spinning… Okay turning lol, #whoamikidding over winter and I’d appreciate your company too 🙂
Here’s the latest vid at time of writing to accompany this piece. A nice ride it was too, chilly, but fun as ever 🙂
Meantime, Dear Reader, thanks as ever for your company here, I hope you’re doing well if you’re on the asthma wagon. I’d appreciate comments or contact me directly or via CyclingQuestions on YouTube as I guess writing away here I’m currently in a vacuum haha. You can help with that if you’re minded to. Let me know what your riding’s like over winter. And as ever take care out there, ride safe, have fun and kindest warmest regards to you, Dear Reader, David.