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Everyday cycling, where the exercise leaves you breathing heavily but not being out of breath, is an enjoyable form of aerobic exercise and effective at promoting good health. For example, cycling reduces the risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and the most common form of diabetes. One rough calculation suggests that new cyclists covering short distances can reduce their risk of death (mainly due to the reduction of heart disease) by as much as 22 per cent.

Cycling can be part of a program to lose weight because it burns an equivalent of 300 calories in one hour infact a 15-minute bike ride to and from work five times a week burns off the equivalent of 6 kgs of fat in a year according to a study. Cycling also meets the latest target on exercise which states mild to moderate physical activity that leaves us out of breath for at least 30 minutes five times a week.

Cycling can have positive effects on how we feel too. Moderate exercise has been found to reduce levels of depression and stress, improve mood and raise self-esteem, and has also been found to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

For the elderly there can be indirect benefits in terms of reducing injuries from falls, which can be seriously disabling. Leg strength and co-ordination also improves by cycling. This is more important than it seems because leg strength improves mobility by allowing people to get out of chairs more easily while improved co-ordination helps older people avoid falls and the injuries associated with them.

There are no real age barriers to cycling, and people of most fitness levels can cycle, slowly and gently if necessary. Anyone with heart disease or other conditions affecting their activity should consult their doctor before starting any exercise program. Those of all body shapes and all but the most extreme body weights can ride a bike.

How much you ride depends on you, your fitness and your lifestyle. A gradual time of 15 mins slowly increasing every two weeks to a maximum of 60 mins is an ideal way to begin. In a few weeks aerobic fitness will have improved and you will be able to ride for longer distances without feeling anything more than a little puffed out.

Whether it be indoor or outdoor, cycling in general is becoming more and more popular. With pollution on the rise and an increase for the push of general health and fitness, cycling is a great way to save on fuel as well as getting fit and burning off a few extra calories.

Which is Best: Indoor or Outdoor Cycling

There are many factors you need to take into consideration eg: 
The weather 
What time of the day you train 
How much spare time you have 
How do you want to invest in the equipment involved in outdoor cycling 
Whether or not you have access to a cycle path 
If you are comfortable cycling on main roads and amongst traffic. 
Do you prefer to train outdoors?

It's a personal choice - go with what suits you!

Cycling can offer benefits for both fitness and burning off unwanted body fat. It really depends on your health and fitness goals and what you want to achieve from your cycling program. Outdoor cycling can include cycle tracks in parks or within your town or city. You can take the family cycling or use your cycling program as some "time out" for yourself away from work and other pressures you may be experiencing at that moment in time.

A Few Things You Need to Organise Before Starting Your Cycling Program

1. Do you have any injuries that affect the type of bicycle you use. eg, semi-recumbent cycle would be more preferred than a high seated one for someone with a back problem and arthritis of the knee.
2. Has this exercise program cleared by your doctor? 
3. Do you know what your health and fitness goals are? And how will this effect your program. 
4. Do you have a program that specifically designed for your goals? Programs can be based on heart rates to keep you in the aerobic zone specifically for which you might need to invest in a heart rate monitor which is a belt which is put around the chest and a wrist watch which displays the heart rate or else you can use static cycles in Gyms which come with sensors on the handle bar which gives you a continuous display of your heart rate.
5. Arrange your program so that you can enjoy it at a specific time of the day when you don't have to rush.

6. Do you have a strength training and eating plan organised to suit your cycling program?

You might as well put in the effort with your diet and training if you are going to start exercising too. Ideally no sweet product or more specifically a carbohydrate snack should be consumed 45 mins before any exercise, 50 to 100 ml of cold water prior to the exercise should suffice and then once the exercise routine begins a carbohydrate snack with water can be replenished for every 20 mins of exercise. The fad of consuming sports drinks at the end of an exercise is the personal choice of an individual and also depends on how much you are willing to spend, the cheapest and best replenishment can come via a glass of water with 5 teaspoons of sugar with a pinch of salt.

7. As well as making sure your bicycle is comfortable and set up correctly you will also want to ensure that your indoor cycle is placed somewhere in your house where you will use it and where you can access it easily. 
8. Keep your seat at a comfortable distance from the pedals. The ideal way to sit is with the knee making a slight angle when the pedal is at the lowest point. This is so they get a full stretch of their legs without feeling like they are being pulled off the seat when the pedals rotate. 
9. When cycling outdoors make sure your feet can touch the ground, while you are seated on your bike seat. Play it safe and use your common sense when cycling.

10.For outdoor cycling safety drills such as a proper helmet fitted snugly along with lights and reflectors to improve your visibility on the road is essential . Also with the current pollution levels using a good quality mask will ensure a certain amount of protection.

Cycling indoors or outdoors is a great way to keep fit and burn off those extra calories. Cycling 3-4 times per week will make a difference in the way you look, feel as well increasing your self esteem. You don't need to cycle for hours on end, 20 - 30 mins is sufficient and sometimes less when you are first starting out. As your fitness increases you can ramp up the intensity and the length of your cycle sessions.

To summarize the benefits of  cycling and not to confuse the issue of static versus  dynamic cycling and not to relegate all the static cycles to being a cloth stand at homes it would be easier for the reader to grasp that it is the individual to decide the kind of cycling they would prefer. For example if it is a static cycle the pace should be a slow continuous process done with an aid of some form of entertainment like watching television or listening to music to avoid boredom ,the pace should be able to elicit a response of hard to some what hard i.e. the exerciser should be able to talk with an effort yet not with ease and definitely not out of breath while cycling. The exercise routine should always begin with a warm up and followed by a cool down following the exercise, this helps avoid injuries and also prepares the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system for an exercise and following the exercise to wash away the byproducts of exercise. If a heart rate monitoring is possible during the exercise then the ideal heart rate is  to begin with a heart rate of 60% of maximum heart rate (220 – age) and then proceed to 80%, a duration of 15 mins initially and progressing to 60 mins , 3( for cardio respiratory fitness) to 5(weight loss) times a week would be the scientific method of prescribing the exercise. Regardless the cycle as an outdoor companion is as much as fun , fitness, environment friendly and can be enjoyed by one and all. So have fun –protect your heart and the world.

Tackling a reoccurring knee pain in Runners

The most common reason is inadequate or improper rehab.  Usually, rehab can take between 3 months to 6 months depending on the condition but this does not mean complete rest but using alternative exercises which help build both stamina and strength.  The second reason are biomechanical causes not addressed in the rehab which include sudden increase in pace/mileage, identifying incorrect shoes, fixing mal-alignments and last reason being proprioception, or the ability to position body in motion and maintain balance which is most often ignored in injury rehabilitation.  It is important to address all aspects of injury rehabilitation and not limit the rehab to pain management and strength only with of course, a timely and correct diagnosis shall prevent this condition from becoming chronic.

Why Swimming is the greatest Summer exercise ever

Swimming is one of the best forms of exercises for the overall development of the body. It is particularly effective even in individuals suffering or recovering from injuries specially sports related injuries. Classified as a non weight bearing exercise it is effective for toning your muscles as one would do in a gym. A physically demanding combination of cardio and strength, it works your heart and the muscles in your legs, arms, torso and hips. Resistance is provided by the water which has a similar effect as using a resistance machine at the gym. Due to the effects of water it creates a more uniform resistance throughout the activity thereby leading to a complete muscle toning developing all the muscles of the body. From an overall perspective of muscles involved , freestyle and back stroke engage Arm muscles( triceps, biceps and deltoids ) ,abdominals, butt ,chest (pectorals) quadriceps in the freestyle and hamstrings in the back stroke .Butterfly stroke is the most energy demanding and involves the torso and hips just as the arms and legs. 

Swimming also comes under the classification of aerobic or cardio exercises for improving the heart and lung functioning leading to improved stamina or endurance. Infact because of this quality of exercise patients who are unable to do land based activities due to injuries for example stress fractures in long distance runners, military recruits are prescribed swimming to maintain their stamina. Due to the high level of humidity in the air around the swimming pool it makes breathing easier and is the prescribed exercise to improve breathing parameters therefore an exercise option for asthmatics. Scientific studies have shown the benefit of swimming on lung function tests. Due to the buoyancy factor swimming is an ideal way for people with injuries or those suffering from obesity to get a good workout without risk of overloading the skeletal system further which is really helpful way to stretch out the whole body to improve flexibility.One of the best forms of exercise to bring about a calming effect is swimming, it not only relaxes the sore muscle but also has a tranquilising effect on the stressed out mind by the secretion of happiness hormones, i.e, endorphins besides the soothing effect of the waves and cooling effect.

Cramps are known to occur during swimming which can be disastrous and may also result in drowning and other accidents for which every swimmer should be aware and careful, cramps can be avoided by doing warm ups , ankle rotation exercises and calf stretches before swimming but most important is not to be exhausted and dehydrated therefore new swimmers , particularly children should be observed for extreme thirst, hunger or tiredness and substitute the same with water, electrolyte drinks and snacks. A post swimming snack should contain both carbohydrates and proteins to reenergise and repair muscles. For vegetarians a wholegrain cereal with milk or a multigrainwrap with paneer or paneer sandwiches and for non vegetarians a simple snack of boiled eggs with fresh fruit juice or chicken sandwiches can be consumed for obtaining both proteins and carbohydrates.

 As with other exercises strenuous exercise is contraindicated for those with a heart condition or a person post middle age previously sedentary now wanting to take up swimming as an exercise, they should ideally obtain a medical clearance. Other contraindications for strenuous exercise include cardiac symptoms, episodes of loss of consciousness, poorly controlled epilepsy, however for an epileptic on medication with well controlled seizures it is recommended to swim along with a partner, keep the lifeguards informed, use a floatation device and avoid underwater swimming. Swimming is not recommended in the presence of acute infections such as ear, nose, throat ,skin , acute asthmatic attacks and respiratory infections, however once treated they can continue swimming.

Swimming is recommended for patients who want to lose weight but have other conditions such as osteoarthritis of the knees or other weight bearing joints which make it difficult to pursue land based weight loss activities. Swimming involves upper and lower body muscles and although this type of exercise involves more muscles but muscle mass involved for example as in would be low therefore energy expenditure will be low for same intensity. However swimming involves much less stress on the bones and joints, thereby allowing exercise for a longer period of time consequently causing energy expenditure as much as a high intensity work out. Swimming also is known to improve bone strength in post menopausal women because of the exercise against resistance provided by water.

Overall the ideal exercise for summers it has the unique property of providing relaxation yet building on strength, improving heart and lung functioning while helping to burn calories thus furthering weight loss also. An excellent tool for rehabilitation of injuries it can also improve return to sport for the athlete and an alternative training method during the intolerable summer heat. Finally it is an exercise which each child should take up for not only developing physical and mental health but a value addition experience for water related emergencies



One of the most common complaints to develop in Runners is shin pain often progressing to a stress fracture. Though commonly seen they are often misdiagnosed with other lower leg ailments such as muscle tendon inflammations. Doctors may sometimes miss it as routine Xrays do not detect it and MRI are generally not done routinely for shin pain or thought to be too trivial an ailment to be investigated with a MRI. Most often a lot of Runners worsen it by expecting it to heal with time and sometimes fellow compatriots offer advice ranging from rest to application of oil massages and some to just application of an ice pack.  

Typical Transition of pain

The pain of shin stress syndrome proceeding to a stress fracture will have a very localised pain which gradually proceeds from being tender to touch(Stress syndrome Grade1) progressing to appearance during activity and subsiding on rest(Stress syndrome Grade 2) , progressing to pain present at rest (Stress syndrome Grade3)and finally severe throbbing pain present at all times affecting walking even to a point of weight bearing(Stress fracture).So it’s a gradual progress from an irritant to a severe throbbing pain , the last stage maybe picked up by an Xray while the first 3 stages need a MRI to confirm diagnosis. However, a shin muscle inflammation (tendinitis) pain is a more spread out pain and a compartment syndrome is more exercise induced not present at rest andmore associated with swelling of the muscle belly  ,numbness ,tingling and weakness.

Tackling the problem

Most often we see athletes who develop shin pain simply take a break and resume running after a while when symptoms abate no sooner to re-develop the symptoms once again. The common reasons to develop a stress fracture are training errors or to simply put it – ‘too much, too soon, too fast or too hard’, this relates to increased mileage or speed or increasing speed/ mileage too quickly before adaptation or increased road running. You can also add to the list ‘too poor’ (which signifies a poor quality / worn out shoe or a poor nutritional status in terms of bone muscle health like deficient protein or calcium – Vitamin D status. Therefore instead of simply resting out this typical pain you need the expertise of a Sports Doctor for analysing the reason behind this cause, additionally the Doctor will also take a look at misalignments such as flat feet/ weak arches, and limb structural anomalies which also can contribute to these injuries. Tibial stress fractures take two to three months to heal but in reality it sometimes takes runners upto six months to resume running so the best way to tackle this problem is to address it at the earliest, take a proper diet follow a correct regime for training, ice your shins after running and do a set of exercises to prevent muscle fatigue. 

Recommended Exercises   

There are some specific exercises which can be done to help in preventing these shin problems.

(1) Calf Stretches

Face the wall ,keep your arms extended, palms flat against the wall, one leg forward, foot flat on the floor, and extend your second leg straight back, placing your heel flat on the floor. Don't bend your back knee. Lean into the wall until you feel the stretch in the calf of the straight leg. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with the other leg, do 3 to 5 such repetitions. 

(2) Forefoot Raises

Lean your back against the wall, slide down a little and rest your foot on your heels with your feet ahead of the wall, raise your fore foot(Toes) towards your shin and then bring them down without touching the floor raise them again. Do 10 to 15 repetitions on a count of 1-2-2-1.The exercise will make you feel a stress on the outer aspect of your shin bone muscles.

(3) Heel Walking

Walk on your heels with toes pointed straight ahead, then with toes pointed outwards and finally with toes pointed inwards, all the while the activity is on your heels with toes lifted off the ground. Do this routine for 10 minutes.

 (4)  Hops

On a soft surface like a lawn or soft soil hop with both your legs keeping your hands on the waist, followed by alternating one leg hops. Repeat 10 hops each. Progress to combining forward and backward hops.

(5) Box Jumps.

An advance form of training would be to do box jumps. Standing on a  box about six to 10 inches in height, jump down by keeping your knees slightly bent and then jump forward couple of steps repeat this action initially for 5 repetitions, next jump on to the box. Finally attempt doing this with one foot at a time.

The above mentioned exercises would help build strength around your shin bone as well help strengthen the bone also.

Remember for a well planned and successful running you need to be aware of the injuries of the lower limb, the most common  being shin pain, icing a tender shin especially post running along with a good strengthening regime, a proper diet and a correct training plan will help avoid such injuries. Therefore do the above and --- Happy Running!