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The Benefits of Bicycling – 6 Steps in Turning it Into a Normal Exercise Regimen
The fitness and health benefits of cycling are obvious. A normal exercise regimen of any kind, performed on a weekly basis, is beneficial to an individual’s long-term health. Exercise is good for the human body. Adherence to a dedicated fitness regimen helps an individual improve his/her cardiovascular system and lower blood pressure in the body. In addition to following a meal plan and eating a healthy diet, a weekly exercise regimen can help prevent excess weight.
I have been an avid cyclist for over 30 years. Instead of receiving my car keys on my 16th birthday, my parents went out and bought me a 10 speed bike. I know 10 speeds on a bike would be considered obsolete these days. But, remember, this was the summer of 1973. Even though I competed in track and field in high school and graduated as an all-state sprinter, I fell in love with cycling. When I was in college a few years later, I would have about five weeks off from the end of the semester until I started working as a camp counselor. For those five weeks, instead of sitting on the couch watching TV for hours a day, I simply pulled out my bike and rode around the outskirts of the town where I was living at the time. My normal route is about 25-30 miles. It involves climbing a few hills, but I feel energized after every workout.
As I mentioned before, I also ran track and field in high school and later in college. After graduation, I continued to run. However, I turned into a long-distance runner, often running three or four miles on the road. I lived in New England until my 30s, and while I still ride my bike in the summer, it’s out of the question with several inches of snow on the streets. So, I also run a lot.
Eventually, all the long-distance running I’ve done for about fifteen years caught up with me. The constant pounding of my lower body on the sidewalks of those streets resulted in sore feet and sore knees. I also have pain in my right Achilles tendon. I knew I had to give up running, and I did, fearing years of stress would rupture my Achilles tendon.
However, I never gave up cycling. In fact, I increased my cycling workouts to maintain some fitness. This is one of the fitness and health benefits of cycling. On a bicycle, your lower joints don’t experience the same stress as a runner. When I run four times a week, my feet, knees, and especially my Achilles tendon are under very little stress. I am 52 years old now. Also, a few times a week I get the bike out and ride it. The only stress I experience is climbing hills as part of my workout routine. After completing my exercise regimen, I feel energized.
If you’re not part of your normal exercise program and looking to get back in shape, I recommend that you consider cycling to meet your needs. Below I’ve outlined 6 steps you can take to make cycling something good for your health.
1). If you haven’t invested in any exercise regimen in years, it’s best to talk to your doctor or primary care physician first. He or she will create an exercise program for you and get you started.
2). You probably already have an old bike that’s been sitting in the garage for a few years and still works. Take it out, take it to a reputable bike repair shop and have them do the maintenance work to keep it running well. Most importantly, you should have a bike that is safe to ride. If you don’t own a bike; whether it’s a street/road or a cross-country mountain bike, you can invest in one. You don’t have to invest thousands of dollars on a bike. Investing two to four hundred dollars in a new bike is more than enough to get started.
3). Before you start riding, buy a good bike helmet. This should be mandatory. I know, personally, I wouldn’t even think about riding a bike without wearing a helmet. A good bike helmet will cost around $50-$75. Many good helmets come with foam padding that can be adjusted to the size of your head. I don’t want anyone to have safety issues while riding a bike. However, if an unfortunate event occurs; an injury to a leg, arm or shoulder is less of a problem than an accident to the person’s head. Protect your head. If an adult takes a child out to ride a bicycle together, the child is required to wear a helmet to ride. In fact, adults should educate their sons or daughters that wearing a helmet while riding a bike is an absolute must.
4). Take your time at first and take it easy. Chances are, when you first start your cycling regimen, you can’t expect to ride ten miles and do the route in less than an hour. At first, your body won’t allow it. You may feel muscle fatigue after you finish. In fact, you’re better off stretching your leg muscles as a warm-up before your ride. When you’re done, do some stretching to get rid of any lactic acid that may have built up in your muscles during your ride. Most importantly, start your regimen with short rides. Allow your body to build strength and endurance by cycling just a few times a week. Remember, Rome wasn’t conquered in a day.
5). Buy yourself a bottle of water and drink plenty of water while cycling. During normal sweating, your body loses water. You want to stay hydrated as much as possible while riding. Drink plenty of water after riding to replenish the minerals lost during exercise.
6). Remember to obey the rules of the road. Ride as close to the shoulder of the road as possible. As part of my bike route, I’ve had the good fortune to ride on a clearly designated bike lane and later on a bike/running lane that doesn’t allow motor vehicles. This is not possible where you live. I’d even consider spending $10 on a rear view mirror that can be attached to your left hand bar or attached to your helmet. Also, wear a brightly colored shirt so motorists can see you. Obey all traffic laws, including stopping at traffic lights. Use proper hand gestures when you know you will be turning in traffic. I once went on a cycling holiday with a well-known company that specialized in this business. The company’s bike guides used to teach us the best way to turn on the lights so the driver knew exactly what we were trying to do. This is when you are about to make a left turn; you will straighten your left arm with your index finger extended outward. When turning right, extend the right arm and right index finger outward, doing the same. Do these maneuvers well in advance of the turn. I’ve heard of other turn signals, and frankly, they don’t clearly communicate your intentions to the driver. Example: Simply straighten your right arm to indicate that you are about to turn right. This can be interpreted as an ambiguous signal to the driver of the vehicle. Does this action mean you intend to stop? do you want to turn right Are you greeting the driver to tell him/her that you know he/she is behind you? No, you should make your intentions very clear as mentioned above where you (the cyclist) signal the turning maneuver. Any other signal could confuse the vehicle driver and cause you, the cyclist, an unfortunate accident.
So get out there and let your body benefit from a normal cycling regimen.
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