Cycling is in the top five when it comes to lengthening your lifespan, but it isn't all for the reasons you may think.
Physical activity and exercise are essential to living longer. It is not a ground-breaking statement to make, especially when speaking to an audience of cyclists and fitness enthusiasts. Certain sports increase your life expectancy more than others, and cycling is up there on the list. Not at the top, but close. The basis may not be what you think.
A recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings conducted by the Copenhagen City Heart Study followed over 8,500 people for more than 25 years to formulate the ranking. The participants who enjoyed playing tennis added 9.7 years to their lives, followed by badminton (6.2 years) and soccer (4.7 years). Cycling came in fourth with 3.7 years.
Top Five Isn’t Bad, Where’s Virtual Cycling?
It is unclear whether there is a cause-effect relationship in this observational study. It is interesting to note that the top three, tennis, badminton, and soccer, inherently involve significant social interaction. Which prompted me to think, “What about virtual cycling?”
Traditional cycling is friendly, I guess. Is it socially interactive? As it is likely yours, my answer is “yes, and no.” I think back to my days riding extensively on the road with fond memories.
When I look back further, I see that those recollections were infrequent, formed of the weekly or bi-weekly group ride. Even then, the conversation was limited to a cryptic set of hand gestures, sideways glances, and “wait until we stop for coffee” comments.
Traditional Cycling is Socially Interactive, Yes and No
The majority of my riding and training was alone. Of course, the sights and sounds of nature are fine companions, but they do not replace human interaction. The inhabitants of Blue Zones have this figured out.
Blue Zones are designated regions of the world noted for their extraordinarily long-living populations. Sardinia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean sea, is one of those places.
Dr. Gianni Pes is a foremost expert in Blue Zone theory and has been studying the people of Sardinia for years. The proportionately high number of Sardinians who live to be over 100 is striking. There are as many male centenarians in that blue zone as females, and few live separately in retirement or nursing homes.
Blue Zones Are the Key to a Long Happy Life
In addition, the elders of Sardinia routinely participate in the active and physical chores of the household as a family. Therin lies the secret to the fountain of youth for Sardinians, according to Dr. Pes. The solid social connections they share, often while participating in physical activity, are why.
A recent review of almost 150 studies backs this up. The mortality risk is 50% greater in individuals who lack social connections. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin stressed the importance of interacting with a wide range of others in their findings. The older adults who spent more time socializing with a diverse group were more physically active and reported a greater sense of well-being.
Social Isolation is a Chronic Disease
Social isolation has a profound adverse effect on disease progression and mortality. This recent study asserts that the risk exceeds diabetes, a well-known factor in many chronic diseases. In addition, the more social we are, the lesser the chance of experiencing hypertension and obesity in old age.
Where does virtual cycling rank on the list? We may never know, but it is an interesting question to ask. I contend that it jumps a few spots into the rarefied air of those racquet sports. It checks all the boxes.
Virtual Cycling is the Fountain of Youth, My Gain Cave is Sardinia
“Wait,” you say, “What is more isolating than riding alone in your basement?” I don’t see it that way. My inner dialogue is crystal clear and continuous with text-chat-filled group rides. Much more so than the wind muffled shouts and sign language of traditional rides. With the added dimension of Discord communication, there is no contest.
Through easy and effective interaction, bonds are born. When riding with the friends I have grown to enjoy and admire virtually, the sense of community far exceeds my traditional cycling relationships. There is no contest with the added dimension of Discord communication during the selfless sacrifice and team camaraderie of eracing.
Dr. Pes would be proud. I have discovered cycling’s version of the fountain of youth. It is the Sardinia I call my “Gain Cave.” My blue zone of happiness and friendship. Long live virtual cycling.
Would your life be less happy, fulfilled, or worth living without virtual cycling? Comment below. Your fellow virtual cyclists want to know.
For other interesting and inspiring stories highlighting the incredible bonds and friendships formed in virtual cycling check out the Community page of The ZOM.
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site. In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, http://www.TheDIRTDadFund.com. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.