Author Topic: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?  (Read 4853 times)

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Offline iwstamp

Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« on: June 27, 2013, 12:51:38 pm »
I know what you are thinking... How could it not be? 75 miles day after day on a loaded bike for weeks and weeks no less. It has to translate into both short term and long term health benefits. I ride about 80 to 100 miles per week... On a touring bike over very, very hilly terrain so I only average about 14 miles per hour. The reason I bring up the health question is that there is more and more evidence that "endurance" athletes may actually be doing more harm than good to their heart and longevity. I won't go into all the studies here but the data is compelling. I am planning my own cross country trip and I don't think I'll pay this notion too much mind.... Just curious if anyone else has an opinion. Do long distance cyclists live longer or shorter than the regular Joe?

Thanks!
« Last Edit: June 30, 2013, 12:45:48 pm by iwstamp »

Offline Wuwei

Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2013, 02:53:09 pm »
One thing I noticed after a 5000-mile cross Canada tour was that my cholesterol level shot way up. Eating anything you can get your hands on is not always the healthiest thing to do, but you have to keep the tank full in order to keep riding. It took me a year of dieting to get it back to normal levels though I attribute physical activity with helping also.
I'm curious about your query as well. I have seen some 70 year-olds on tour that seemed very fit and healthy though.

Offline indyfabz

Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2013, 03:44:14 pm »
I wouldn't pay it any mind. When you get behind the wheel do you pay any mind to the chances of being injured or killed in an automobile accident vs. a bike accident?

If someone is not going to engage in long distance cycling because they are concerned about knocking a few years off their life after seeing some story on the evening new they had might as well shelter themselves from all potential risks. There are a lot more common things out there that can kill you. Considering what the "average Joe" is like in this country, I will take my chances. And for what it's worth, I crossed the country with a guy who turred 77 during the trip.

Offline windrath

Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2013, 08:56:13 pm »
Dear iwstamp -

I am a competitive masters swimmer who does a lot of training with my heart regularly 85% of my "max".  I also do a lot of touring and local riding (i.e. 50-60 miles locally and usually around 100 miles/day while on tour).  I honestly cannot call touring an endurance activity as my heart rate is often barely over 100 unless the terrain is really steep.  This is very low level aerobic training.

I do agree that my cholesterol and weight are terrible after a long tour vs before and have concluded I actually lose fitness during a tour.  Yeah Yeah - maybe hard to believe, but true for me.

So, tour for all of the good reasons and forget fitness and nutrition as the goals.  :)

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2013, 09:37:15 pm »
On a touring bike over very, very hilly terrain so I only average about 14 miles per hour.

Only 14 miles per hour?  :o

Offline iwstamp

Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2013, 04:50:36 am »
Well just a tad under. But that is without any load. Loaded (and not hell bent on improving my time), it is more like 11 to 12.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2013, 12:46:19 pm by iwstamp »

Offline JayH

Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2013, 08:23:11 am »
nothing is really good for you, including breathing so might as well enjoy it :D  I sure enjoy long distance touring...

Jay

Offline jfitch

Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2013, 11:46:54 pm »
"nothing is really good for you, including breathing so might as well enjoy it"

That's right. Life is a terminal disease. Nobody gets out alive and it could end tomorrow. So make the most of it while you've got it.

Offline lukethedrifter

Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2013, 10:45:24 am »
Looks like their is strong evidence that hardcore endurance athletes are compromising their cardiac health. Probably for the bulk of us, this isn't such a serious issue.

Or pretty much what windrath said.

Offline Mark Manley

Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2013, 08:08:51 am »
I agree with those who say that a long tour can actually make you feel unhealthy, after 4 months in SE Asia I felt quite under the weather due to poor diet in rural parts of Vietnam and Laos but I recovered after about a fortnight back at home and a good diet.
But if you are thinking of doing a trip that you have dreamed about I would not let this stop you, when you are in the retirement home dribbling into your cup of tea it will be too late and you will regret not doing it.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2013, 06:00:07 pm »
Pay attention and use common sense.  I have learned this the hard way.  When I have overdone it I have paid the price.  After one particularly hard summer, when I was about 57, I felt weak and tired for months.  I also have a genetic heart rhythm condition and now have a pacemaker.  Now I keep it moderate and enjoy biking, hiking and rock climbing.  I can feel when I need a day off and come back stronger after a rest.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline BobG

Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2013, 08:14:12 pm »
I have coronary artery disease and have had 4 heart attacks in the past 20 years. I've also led the ACA TransAm tour 4 times. One of my heart attacks occurred within months of completing a trip. Two happened about a year after completion and another occurred during the tour. I had to leave that trip in Newton KS.

Maybe just coincidence, but I cannot help but suspect that the steady diet of pizza, ice cream, peanut butter, cheese, cookies, hash browns, bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy may have aggravated an existing condition and contributed to the attacks. When traveling with a group it's easy to chow down with everybody else thinking your normal again for the duration of the trip when you still have CAD. It' easy to say "I worked hard today and I deserve this pint of ice cream!" Yes, I think one needs and burns off the extra calories but in my case the cholesterol kept rising despite the exercise.

In conclusion, I don't think long distance cycling is bad for your health, but a typical travel diet may be risky to some if you have CAD. If you're healthy.... eat, drink, and be merry. I agree with Windrath that the exercise level of cycle touring is not particularly stressful.

Offline DaveB

Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2013, 12:44:07 pm »
There are always those who will abuse a good idea to the point of damage.  The "if some is good, more is better and way too much is about right" school of thought.  Good advice can be abused.

Exercise is good for your health but can be overdone to the point where good turns to harm.  Professional Grand Tour riders usually come out of the tours weaker than they went in but theirs is an extreme example of overuse.  How many tourists do anything approaching what they do?

Drinking water is good for you but there are those who drink so much it dilutes their electrolyte levels to the point of serious health issues.  Extrapolating too much can do harm.   

If bike touring is "unhealthy" it may be that doing an endless, unbroken succession of 100 miles days is damaging.  Or, as others have noted, poor on-the-road nutrition is a factor.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2013, 12:50:34 pm by DaveB »

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2013, 01:06:31 pm »
I think there are too many factors here to draw conclusions.
Any extreme athlete is going to abuse their body, and it does not matter what the sport is.
Diet is really important, be it what you eat daily, or what you eat on the TransAm.
I think you can do a long distance tour and not shorten your life expectancy. 
Danno

Offline zerodish

Re: Is Long Distance Touring Really a Healthy Endevour?
« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2013, 07:53:51 pm »
750 cyclist die each year compare this to 150 police officers. Now I have missing information but my best guess is cycling is 600 times as dangerous as police work measured per hour and 3000 times as dangerous per mile. I've been hit 4 times or 5 times if you count the guy I provoked. 2 police officers have tried to car door me once at mile point 92 on interstate 5 in Oregon I was doing 40mph and once in Lassen volcanic park by an unmarked truck.  You are also more likely to get west Nile which is now in Phoenix rocky mountain spotted fever etc. I got the plague from a cat but was able to shake it off the cat died. I accept these risk as a test pilot. In Portland Or. the death rate dropped to one third in 10 years thinks to people like me.