It's no secret that most of us are
now getting fatter,
unhealthier and unfitter than ever before in history. Whilst
we are all living very comfortable lifestyles, in fact more
comfortable than ever before, one of the side-effects of our
comfortable lifestyle is that lifestyle diseases such as
heart disease, cancer and stroke are claiming more of us
than ever before.
It's a sad statistic. A century ago
rates of serious
lifestyle diseases were far lower than they are now. And
this is one of the reasons why health care is now such a
burden on our government.
Of course there's many individual
reasons why we are
becoming fatter, less healthy and more unfit, however as a
general rule we are doing less exercise and eating a poorer
diet than ever before.
Whilst there is plenty of quality
food available to us the
rise of fast foods high in sugar, salt and fat as well as a
range of other additives has meant that many of us are now
eating nutritionally inadequate diets, and this is
translating into ill-health.
On top of this most of us are now
engaged in sedentary
lifestyles. A century ago work commonly involved some form
of physical exercise, simply as part of the work. However it
is now true to say that for most of us a day's work rarely
involves any exercise at all.
In fact many of us spend our day on
our butt. We drive to
work in a car, or travel by train or other form of
transport, sitting down. We work in an office, often behind
a computer, sitting down. We eat dinner at the fast food
restaurant, sitting down, and when we get home we spend the
evening in front of the television, sitting down.
So for most of us exercise is an
ever diminishing aspect of
life. For many of us the most exercise we get in a day is
walking to the fridge to get that next beer.
And all of this is impacting on our
health, and on our
Of course there's nothing new in any
of this, it's common
knowledge. However what is less common is for individuals to
do something about it. Specifically it is now necessary for
anyone who wishes to incorporate regular exercise in their
life to make a conscious decision to do so.
That describes me. At the age of 50
I had spent a decade of
inactivity. I had put on more weight than I would like, and
couldn't do much about it. I was way more unfit than I had
ever been at any other time in my life, and after seeing
friends of mine in a similar situation begin to suffer
health complications, knew that I could be in trouble.
So I made a conscious decision to
incorporate exercise into
my sedentary lifestyle. However actually doing so wasn't
quite so easy.
I knew I couldn't jog. Having done a
little in the past I
knew I hated jogging. I also knew that by taking up jogging
I was opening myself up to various stress-related injuries.
I tried swimming, but found that
watching the endless black
line on the bottom of the pool bored me to tears. The
swimming lasted a month.
I tried a different approach and
bought a rowing machine, on
the assumption that if I could place it in front of the
television I could watch movies whilst getting my exercise
at the same time, and I wouldn't even notice the rowing.
The rowing machine lasted about as
long as the swimming. I
found that a half-hour on the rowing machine, despite the
movie, seemed to take a lifetime.
I reached a point of despair of
finding an activity that
provided me with fun and exercise. I knew it had to be fun
because I could never keep it up week after week, month
after month, year after year unless it was fun.
And then I came across road cycling.
I bought a bike, found
a bunch of people who cycled together, joined a cycling club
and started cycling.
It was fun, I enjoyed it from the
start. It wasn't that
difficult, despite the fact that it was 30 years since I'd
been on a bike. And after the initial purchase of a bike it
wasn't all that expensive, because unlike something like
golf, there were no ongoing fees.
It was low impact, so less risk of
And it was enormously social. I was often riding in groups
of 50 or more people, and enjoyed it as much for the social
aspect as for the riding.
In fact I realized that whether or
not I was getting
exercise I was enjoying the activity sufficiently to keep it
up, week after week, month after month, year after year. I
wasn't doing it for the exercise, I was doing it because I
It's now been 6 years and I enjoy
road cycling as much as I
ever did. I look forward to each opportunity to get on the
bike. I'm fitter than ever before, I've lost some weight and
I feel great.
So if you're getting older, and
exercise has quietly slipped
out of your life, you need to make a conscious decision to
return exercise to your life. Whilst you may find another
passion that provides fun, exercise and social aspects, my
suggestion is that along the way you try road cycling. You
might find that it's the perfect activity for the older
It certainly has been for me. Road
cycling has been a breath
of fresh air in my life, it might be in yours too.
Peter is a road cycling enthusiast who champions the benefits of road cycling as the perfect form of exercise, fun and social activity for the older person. He is the owner of the website The Over 40 Cyclist where he offers a free weekly newsletter for the older road cyclist.