By: Karin Olafson
Riding your bike and cruising the pathways in the springtime isn’t just a fun way to make the most of the warming weather. It’s also a great way to work the cardiovascular system, improve leg strength and increase core stability.
Tanya Williamson is a clinical exercise physiologist and a project coordinator with the Alberta Cancer Exercise program for Calgary and Southern Alberta. Williamson says biking can be a great, accessible form of exercise for those going through — or who have completed — cancer treatment.
“With biking, you can control the difficulty — you can pick a route that is maybe short or flat to start, and you can work with your gears to keep the intensity manageable,” says Williamson. She adds that it’s a non-impact form of exercise that doesn’t tend to aggravate joint pain or neuropathy — pain or numbness caused by nerve damage — which can be common side- effects for people as they go through cancer treatment. Electric bikes make biking even more accessible.
Electric bikes, or e-bikes, look much like the bicycle you already have in your garage, but come equipped with a battery pack and an electric motor, which provides propulsion while you’re pedalling.
“The e-bike really opens up doors for people looking to get outside and get moving on a bike, particularly cancer patients,” says Williamson. “What people [often have to] manage soon after finishing treatment, or during treatment, is that they get deconditioned. That means they experience muscle loss and strength loss, and commonly lose stamina and endurance. Fatigue is the most common side-effect that cancer patients will experience, which physical activity and exercise help to combat.”
Williamson says there’s a fine balance between getting out and getting active and not pushing yourself too far — and that’s where the motor can be a great asset. If fatigue sets in, if there’s a big hill climb or if you’re cycling with a group and can’t comfortably keep up, the e-bike can provide a boost and offer a chance to catch your breath.
“Using an e-bike can help riders gradually ease into the intensity of exercise, to where fitness is slowly improving over time,” says Williamson.
Plus, zooming around on two wheels as the weather gets warmer is a fun way to get outside!
Three Tips to Start Exercising on Your E-Bike
Tanya Williamson offers some expert insight if you are going through cancer treatment or are beginning an exercise routine after finishing treatment.
“We advocate for even little bouts of movement. Think just five to 10 minutes at a time — it doesn’t have to be 20 minutes right away! Maybe a little loop around the block gets you out the door to start, and that will help you slowly build up,” says Williamson.
“Ultimately, physical activity and exercise should always leave you feeling better,” says Williamson. As energy levels improve, build on the time spent in the saddle slowly and gradually each week.
Listen To Your Body
“It’s about doing what exercise feels good on certain days. On those days you feel good, move more and get on the bike a little longer,” says Williamson. “On days when you’re feeling more treatment side-effects or fatigue, go with some easy movements or just a shorter bike ride.”
Where To Buy or Rent An E-Bike
Alpenland Ski & Cycle
1202 3 Ave. S., Lethbridge, 403-329-6099, alpenland.ca
Bow Cycle E-Bikes + Rentals
632 Confluence Way S.E., Calgary, 403-265-5422, bowcycleebikes.com
1-2010 Strachan Rd. S.E., Medicine Hat, 403-526-2274, cyclepathmedhat.ca
9927 76 Ave., Edmonton, 780-249-2453, ebikeedmonton.com
Pedego Electric Bikes Calgary
M15, 200 Barclay Parade S.W., Calgary, 403-455-5505, pedegoelectricbikes.ca