Bicycling has many benefits, including great exercise, getting in shape and losing weight, and reducing the risk of health problems.
“It is a great aerobic workout that utilizes the large muscles of the legs, but is low impact for those who can’t run due to ankle or knee problems,” said Dr. Don Mack, a family physician in Columbus and an avid bicyclist.
But, when cycling, riders must protect their head and face by wearing a helmet that meets government standards; wear sports sunglasses and bright, reflective clothing; use padded gloves to protect hands and use a comfortable seat to reduce buttock pain.
In addition, effective bicycle safety should include checking the brakes, tires, and making sure there are not loose or broken parts on the bike. It is best to avoid riding close to sunset, so that you can see obstacles and can be easily seen by any traffic.
Any exercise may be associated with injury. If an injury should occur, it is important to seek medical attention if the injury does not improve. Some minor injuries can be treated at home.
“If you get a scrape, wash with gentle soap and water, and apply antibacterial ointment with a bandage. For bruises, apply ice and elevate. If the area doesn’t look the same as the area on the other side, or there is persistent pain, visit your family physician. If the injury is severe, or if the rider has signs of confusion or weakness, even if wearing a helmet, activate your EMS by calling 911,” Dr. Mack suggests.
Bicycling is an activity for all age groups and families. Children should learn basic traffic rules and be sure they ride in safe places. Remember, bicyclists are not mini-cars and should avoid traffic, regardless of age, be safe, and use common sense.
“Exercise is life long, and not just for children or retirees. It is great to see families exercising together. But, be smart by bicycling away from cars, watching for obstacles, and always wearing a helmet. This makes you safer, and also teaches your child to be safe,” said Dr. Mack.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these tips for added bike safety:
• Do not push your child to ride a two-wheeled bike without training wheels until he or she is ready. Consider the child's coordination and desire to learn to ride.
• Take your child with you when you shop for the bike, so that he or she can try it out. The value of a properly fitting bike far outweighs the value of surprising your child with a new one. Buy a bike that is the right size, not one your child has to “grow into.”
• When purchasing a helmet, look for a label or sticker that says the helmet meets the CPSC safety standard.
A helmet protects your child from serious injury, and should always be worn. And remember, wearing a helmet at all times helps children develop the helmet habit.
A helmet should be worn so that it is level on the head and covers the forehead, not tipped forward or backwards. The strap should be securely fastened with about two fingers able to fit between chin and strap. The helmet should be snug on the head, but not overly tight. Skin should move with the helmet when moved side to side. If needed, the helmet’s sizing pads can help improve the fit.