Biking Benefits

You don't have to log thousands of miles to gain rewards from riding your bike more and driving your car less. Regardless of whether you're on a fancy new two-wheeler or the battered old reliable you bought years ago, bike riding gives you a terrific workout with lots of interest and fun to keep you going. And with U.S. gasoline prices running higher than $3 per gallon, using a bicycle for shopping, commuting, visiting friends, or just taking a joy ride may help your financial health at the same time it boosts your physical condition.

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That's especially advantageous for women who suffer from muscle strain, foot problems, knee troubles, back pain, or impact-related injuries caused by running, jogging or walking, Dr. Callahan explains.

"If you're overweight and start an exercise program, sometimes it's harder on your joints because you are overweight," she adds. "So something like swimming or biking that's not pounding on the joints can be a good thing."

Daily routine biking also can help fight the incremental weight gain and waistline expansion that many women experience at midlife.

Bike riding lets you add a fitness activity into your day even when you think you don't have time for a workout. "You get the same cardiovascular benefits from cycling that you get from any other form of aerobic exercise—walking, jogging, or dancing," says Lisa Callahan, MD, medical director of the Women's Sports Medical Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. "It can be a very effective cardiovascular benefit."

Your muscles get a boost too. Bike riding strengthens your thighs, hips, and rear end. If your route includes climbing hills, your arms and upper body will benefit as you stand to pedal. What's more, cycling is gentle on your joints and helps preserve cartilage.