I’m always looking for new ways to get my patients to exercise. They often complain that going to the gym is boring and routine and that’s why they don’t do it often enough. But while I was running on the bike trail the other day, I saw the coolest new form of exercise that I couldn’t wait to tell you about…
Boost Heart Health, Save Your Joints and Have A Blast
I know you’re anxious to know what it was I’m talking about. I saw an older couple – 60’s maybe though they seemed much younger – looking like they were having the time of their life. They were clipping along together on these devices that looked like rolling elliptical machines. If you’ve seen elliptical machines at the gym, you’ll know what I mean. Add 2 front wheels and a back wheel and you’ve got the picture.
The couple each had their own device. They stood on them, their feet firmly planted on 2-foot platforms propelling them forward and backward in an elliptical motion. They held onto vertical bars, pulling them back and forth just like you do on a stationary elliptical machine. These bars also had hand brakes on them, just like your regular bike does.
Each movement propelled them forward in a smooth, yet fast, gliding roll down the trail. They were really moving too, checking out the scenery, just like you’d do while riding any bike. Yet, you can also just “cruise” on them, just like a regular bike, when you want to take a break from pedaling and go a little slower. I can’t tell you how cool these devices were and how much fun this couple appeared to be having. I just had to ask them what they were and where they got them.
They stopped and told me these devices were called “elliptical bikes”. They combine the touring capacity of a regular bike with the exercise movements of a stationery elliptical machine. They didn’t hesitate to tell me what a blast they were and how they’ve taken them all around the country on bike trails everywhere. Even though they were an older couple, they were in fabulous physical shape and didn’t look like they had an extra ounce of body fat between them.
I told them I was a cardiologist and thought their devices may be an excellent way to get my patients to exercise more and have some fun. They even let me take a spin on one of the bikes. The movement was so effortless and non-jarring on my knees and hips that I wanted to run to the nearest dealer and get myself one. This couple also proceeded to inform me that not only were these bikes more fun than regular bikes they also had some amazing health benefits. Like these:
1. Full body workout. Pushing and pulling the vertical bars works your entire upper body while rotating the lower foot platforms works your entire lower body. Working both upper and lower body together also fully engages your core as well as your back muscles. It also ups your cardiac endurance.
2. Torches fat fast. Elliptical bikes burn 50% more calories than riding a regular bike and 13% more than a stationary elliptical. In fact, you can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour! That’s not only amazing for weight loss but helps you stay in shape and boosts your immune system.
3. Boosts cardiac health. Moving on an elliptical bike boosts your circulation throughout your entire body. That means not only does your heart benefit, but your legs as well as your brain, also get more richly oxygenated blood to them.
4. Protects joints. The elliptical bike has no impact from the ground. Yet, you can do the same running motion that you do on the ground without the pounding stress and damage to knees, ankles and hips. Your shoulders and neck aren’t sore after riding either as may happen with regular bike riding for long periods over rough roads and terrains. For people with arthritis, elliptical bikes seem like a wonderful way to get fit without causing pain to your joints. This is one of the main reasons my patients who also have arthritis don’t exercise – joint pain whenever their feet hit the floor or ground.
5. Bone strengthening. Even though your feet aren’t impacting the ground, striding is still beneficial weight bearing exercise for your bones. You do impact the pedal platforms each time you move them with your feet. As a result, your leg bones are stimulated which builds strength. Moving the poles causes the muscles of your arms to rub against bone, stimulating them to grow.
6. A green machine. Not only can you exercise on an elliptical bike, you can also use it for transportation to work, the store, etc. They can be fitted with bike bags for groceries or carrying your work clothes. You’ll save gas money on around-town errands as well as get fit.
7. Protects your pelvic floor. Sitting too long on a regular bike and bumping over rough terrains can cause pelvic floor dysfunction. This is a condition where the ligaments in your pelvis lose their tone. They can become either too loose from overstretching/strain, or too tight from constant tension. Either condition can cause you to have pelvic cramping, pain, urinary and bowel incontinence and sexual dysfunction. Standing on an elliptical bike frees your pelvis from the confines and pressure of a bike seat.
8. Reduces stress/depression. Doing aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes a day helps naturally boost your “feel good” brain chemicals, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. The added fun of riding an elliptical bike, taking in all the scenery around you, could spur you into exercising every day. So it can benefit both your body and your mind.
Check Out An Outdoor Elliptical Bike
Doing a little research, I found that there are also slightly different elliptical bikes that have regular bike handlebars with hand brakes instead of the vertical handles. They also have just 2 tires like a regular bike. Some people may prefer this design to the one I saw. But the only way to tell is to try one out for yourself. One manufacturer, ElliptiGO, will allow you to test ride one of their bikes at a fitness equipment retailer near you. Another manufacturer, Street Strider, builds their bikes with the elliptical poles that you push back and forth.
The one drawback of these devices might be their cost. They average model costs about $1600 and can go as high as $3500, depending on the style and accessories you choose for it. Yet, if they helped you exercise more on a regular basis, the cost would be well worth it. You can also buy a kit that transforms your outdoor bike into an indoor bike for winter use. Keep in mind, though, that the cost of an elliptical bike is actually lower than treadmills that often wind up as expensive clothes racks in most homes.
I’m going to take my test drive of one elliptical bike this week. I have a feeling that I’m going to be walking out of the store with one of the floor models or ordering my own. Health studies done through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) cites elliptical bikes as something that can help you burn calories to control weight, boost heart health, lower blood pressure and blood sugar, and improve balance.
Exercising on one of these devices could even make your social life happier and more fulfilling. Think of the people you’ll meet who’ll want to stop and ask you what’s that you’re riding on? In my opinion, they’re also one of the most fun ways to exercise on the planet. That alone can motivate you and keep you going back for more healthy and fun exercise. You can’t beat that combination!
Ron Blankstein, M.D.
Street Strider, http://www.streetstrider.com/summit-8r-p-161.html