February’s Red Event!!
Are you seeing a lot of red this month?
February is designated as Heart Health Month by the American Heart Association to bring awareness to this issue by uniting with companies, community organizations, families and friends to “Go Red” and “Glow Red”. They are encouraging all individuals, particularly women, to wear red.
Why would Wisconsin Women Cycling focus on this topic? There are few reasons: Firstly, heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year – more than all cancers combined – according to the American Heart Association. Wisconsin Women Cycling’s mission is to “inspire girls and women to make healthy choices, on and off their bikes.” Secondly, cycling on a regular basis helps contribute to everyone’s heart health —not only women.
Heart Health of Women
Stroke symptoms differs for women, but the risks factors for cardiovascular disease apply to everyone. There are risk factors that can be controlled such has blood pressure, smoking, cholesterol and lack of regular physical activity. Other risk factors that can’t be controlled are age, gender and family history. I underlined “lack of regular physical activity”, because it directly ties in the mission of Wisconsin Women Cycling (WWCycling) and to my personal history. The Wisconsin Women Cycling’s goal is to create safe, fun, social and educational environments meant to inspire girls and women to make healthy choices, on and off their bikes.
Cycling for Heart Health
There is a lot of interesting information published about cycling and heart health. Cycling has become popular, particular indoor cycling, among older adults. I see evidence in my own community particularly with outdoor cycling, we can boast of a very healthy biking community in this state. This is why it is particularly relevant to Wisconsin Women’s Cycling support efforts to maintain our beautiful trails and promote bike safety in our community. Cycling gets your heart pumping and improves endurance, lowers blood pressure and stress levels, and strengthens hip and legs muscles.
A Danish and Swedish research project shows, “cycling on a regular basis reduces your risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, as well as becoming obese.” Cycling promoted heart health and it didn’t matter if you biked to work or worked out. The following are some of the findings:
- those who were cycling regularly (about one hour per week) following the start of the study were 11-18 percent less likely to develop heart disease compared to those who weren’t.
- those who weren’t cycling at the beginning, but started within the first five years of the study, were 26 percent less likely to develop heart disease compared to non-cyclists.
- The Swedish study followed over 23,000 Swedes with an average age of 43.5 for a decade and found that, compared to people who didn’t cycle, the cyclists had a
- 39 percent lower risk of become obese
- 11 percent less chance of developing high blood pressure
- 20 percent less chance of getting high cholesterol
- 18 percent less risk of developing pre-diabetes
I became avid cyclist about 5 years ago, motivated by the thought that I needed to do something or I wasn’t going to be one of those individuals who “aged gracefully”. My family has a strong history of diabetes, which was my biggest concern, but also a prevalence of cancer and heart disease. I am still challenged with health issues, but heart health issues and diabetes aren’t a problem. I am convinced it is because I cycle. It makes me feel good when medical staff comment on my great blood pressure. I am never concerned about labs coming back with poor HDL, LDL and glucose values.
What Cyclists Know
It seems, at least to me, active cyclists are more in tune with their bodies, so are more likely to know when they aren’t feeling right or recognize signs of any health problems. Active cyclists only need to be moderately active to gain benefits, but there are active cyclists that train more intensely with Interval Training. A study done by the British Medical Association states, “cycling just 32km (20 miles) a week reduces the potential to develop heart disease by a whopping 50%, because it uses large muscle groups in the legs to elevate your heart rate, which in turn improves cardiovascular fitness. Hence it’s very good for the heart.”
Fortunately, I live in an area with many opportunities to cycle. My hope is that we continue to encourage others to get on a bike and enjoy the many beautiful trails, events and other opportunities we have in the state to get outdoors and ride.
Wisconsin Women Cycling will be presenting several rides in 2017. We’ll keep you posted.