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  Latest update: 8/24/2022

Exercise Intensity and Duration

If you ride regularly, the odds are it is for at least one one of the following four reasons for cycling. How long should you ride for maximum benefit?

  1. General Health

    Although 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity is regularly promoted as providing maximum health benefits, a recent paper suggests further benefit up to 300 minutes per week. Does it matter how you reach your 150 - 300 minutes. This study suggested adults performing 150 minutes of physical activity per week gained equal health benefits from sessions spread throughout the week as they did from a one day extended session of activity (the weekend warrior).

    However this flies in the face of many other studies on the health benefits of exercise. In diabetes (a common medical condition wiht a significant impact on population health and mortality figures) multiple studies confirm more exercise means less health problems. This is one example.

    However the recommendation from the diabetes experts is to spread the activity across the day. "Prolonged sitting interrupted by brief (< 5 min) bouts of standing or light-intensity ambulation every 20-30 min improves glycemic control in sedentary overweight/obese populations and in women with impaired glucose regulation. In adults with type 2 diabetes, interrupting prolonged sitting with 15 min of postmeal walking and with 3 min of light walking and simple body-weight resistance activities every 30 min improves glycemic control."

    A major health benefit of exercise is the result of moderating blood sugar spikes after eating. Thus it seems logical to focus physical activity in the post meal period. Get up from the table and take a short 15 minute walk, even if it is just up and down the stairs or around the house.

    My conclusion? If one of the reasons for your ride is for its health benefits, do some riding, even a short 30 minute spin, every day. And you will get bonus points for additional short walking breaks during the day.

  2. Performance Improvement - Aerobic Capacity

    Intervals are the clear winner if this is the goal. And recent work indicates they don't have to be long sessions. A single session of cycles of 30 seconds of strenuous exertion followed by a similar rest interval, repeated 4 or more times provides significant benefits. Add a short warm up as well as a cool down and the total session will require as little as 10 minutes.

    How often? Three times a week should do it. And these intense sessions can easily be incorporated within longer rides.

  3. Performance Improvement - Endurance (musculoskeletal conditioning).

    Here it is time in the saddle, just being on the bike, riding at any speed. The goal being to get your back, shoulders, and sits bones used to the biking position for the hours involved in long distance riding.

    How much time? At least one ride a week lasting 3/4 of the total time being estimated for your longest planned ride. Aiming for a 7 hour century? Then a couple weeks containing a single 5 to 5 1/2 hour training ride each week.

  4. Love of Cycling

    This is my favorite. Riding for relaxation and enjoyment, not aiming to improve a personal best. Just get out and spin for an hour to destress.

    How long? No limits on this one. Daily or just once a week. And along with the enjoyment, you are guaranteed additional physical health benefits as a bonus.

    All questions and suggestions are appreciated and will be answered.

    Cycling Performance Tips
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