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Cardiac cycle your way from heart disease to heart health!

Using an exercise cycle or bicycle can be an important part of your cardiac rehab

A cardiac cycle program using a stationary bike is often part of the cardiac rehab program in the early days of your recovery. But, it's also a great activity to continue as part of your ongoing smart heart living.

Did you know that riding a bike can help to reduce symptoms associated with arthritis, hypertension, asthma, and depression. It is also a great calorie user. But most importantly, it's great for your heart!

You don't have to be super-fit to enjoy a cardiac cycle program... start slowly and gradually increase your time, distance, and speed.

If you have a bike already, there's no need to buy a stationary bike to train indoors... simply get an indoor training mount and convert your outdoor bike to an indoor bike - depending on the season.


An added consideration: riding a bike has none of the joint shock from continuous impact with the ground that occurs with some other aerobic activities. Because cycling causes less wear and tear on the joints and muscles and yet still delivers a good cardiovascular workout, it's a good option for older people or people with joint problems.

If you combine a cardiac cycle program (even occasionally) with walking, yoga, or other activities, you will benefit by working your upper thigh muscles, backside, and calf muscles, burning calories, and conditioning your cardiovascular system. Win - win - win!


Indoor Tips

  • If you like to exercise at home, get astationary bike or an indoor mount for your outdoor bike. If you are concerned about your balance, a stationary bike can provide you with the opportunity to exercise without worrying about balancing your bike.
  • Schedule a specific time.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Watch movies or TV. Before you know it you will have been exercising for 30 or 60 minutes.
  • Another option is to join a stationary "spin" class at a local fitness center.

Outdoor Tips

  • Wear a helmet for outdoor rides - how much is your brain worth?
  • Make a date with a family member or friend.
  • Plan your route in advance.
  • Avoid busy roads and heavy traffic. This is not meant to be stressful. Look for scenic bike trails or quiet roads within your neighborhood.
  • Wear bright clothing - preferably with reflective patches.
  • Have at least one reflector on your bike - the best place for reflectors is on the back of your pedals.
  • If you are riding on the road, go in the same direction as the traffic, and as close to the edge as possible or on the shoulder if paved.
  • Obey all traffic laws - you are driving a vehicle.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (take a bottle of water with you) and avoid extreme weather conditions and temperatures.
  • If possible, start your ride into the wind, then you will enjoy the tail wind on your return.

If this is something you really enjoy, consider joining a club or working your way up to taking a pedal powered vacation.

More information about bicycle riding can be found on Bicycle Riding for Boomers.


Not Enough Time to Ride?
Let's face it. We all have 24 hours each day. It's up to you to determine how to spend your time. Realistically, maybe you can only fit in one 30 minute ride a week. But that's better than none! Especially if you are combining it with other exercise. An ideal to aim for is three times a week. But again, this depends on what other smart heart exercise you are engaging in, and what YOU enjoy doing.

Avoiding Injury
Bicycling injuries can be divided into two categories. Those caused by sudden events such as crashes, and those caused over time by factors such as an ill fitting bike, incorrect exercising (most often too much too soon), or weaknesses in your bodily makeup such as chronically tight hamstrings or knee problems.

To avoid injury when riding outside, review the tips above. Inside or outside, it's a good idea to warm up and/or stretch before your cardiac cycle - good advice before any exercise. Make sure your bike is properly adjusted for your size, and increase your workouts gradually.

As with any exercise program, check with your doctor before starting a cardiac cycle program. If you are currently in cardiac rehab, discuss what kind of cycling program you should continue with your fitness advisors.

Setting Goals
If cardiac cycling is something you really enjoy, why not set some goals for yourself?

I remember being in the Rocky Mountains a few years ago and coming across a group of people in their 60s who were riding their bikes clear across the continent. Talk about inspiration.

Maybe you're up to that challenge - maybe you're not - but you can still set some goals and have some fun achieving them! For example:

  • Pick a distance (it could be the distance to cross your state or province) and chart your progress against that goal. Be sure to reward yourself when you achieve your goal.
  • Have a friendly wager with a companion or family member to see who can reach a distance goal OR amount of time cycled first.
  • Set a goal to cycle a specific number of days per week.
  • Set a goal to increase your distance each week.
  • Set a goal to take a cycling vacation (I've always wanted to do a cycle tour of the wine country in France).

Riding the Right Way

Adjusting your bike
Saddle - the most important adjustment you can make on your bike or stationary bike. Your seat is correctly positioned when you can sit squarely on the saddle with your down leg fully extended and the heel of your shoe is touching the pedal comfortably. Your saddle should be level or slightly tilted with the front of the seat higher than the back. (I have a gel seat - I love it, its so comfortable)

Handlebars - this depends on the type of bike you have. On a mountain or hybrid bicycle the top of the handlebars should be at the top of your saddle.

Riding correctly - inexperienced riders tend to pedal in gears that are too high. Start with the lower gears - less muscle strength and endurance is required. Gradually increase to the higher gears.

Wind and terrain will also influence the gears you use. When it's windy, shift your gears as necessary to find a comfortable rhythm. In hilly areas use low gears, in flat areas shift to higher gears.

Warming up

There are a number of ways you can warm up before your cardiac cycle. Probably the best way is to get on your bike and pedal at a very gentle pace until you feel your body warming. Stretching is advisable, but gently warm up on your bike or walk around and do some light calisthenics beforeyou stretch. Don't stretch cold muscles.

Suggested cardiac cycle workout:

  • Aim to ride for 30 - 45 minutes
  • Predominantly flat or slightly rolling terrain
  • Easy pedaling
Cooling down

Finish your cardiac cycle with a cool down period of low-intensity pedaling to help your muscles return to a resting level. If you stop cycling suddenly, you may begin to feel lightheaded because blood can pool in the legs. Taking a hot shower can further aggravate this situation. As an alternative to low-intensity pedaling, get off your bike and walk to cool down. If you are wearing a heart monitor you can use your heart rate as an indication.


Stationary bikes

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