All ages can get good workout from recumbent stationary bike


March 08, 1994|By Gabe Mirkin, M.D. | Gabe Mirkin, M.D.,Special to The Sun United Features Syndicate

Q: I hate riding a stationary bicycle because it's so uncomfortable. Can you get a good workout on a recumbent model?

A: When you ride a conventional stationary bicycle, you have to sit on a narrow seat to allow your legs to reach the pedals. The seat often presses your pudendal nerve against your pelvic bones, which can cause numbness and pain. With a recumbent bicycle, the chair is contoured to fit your back, and you can exert plenty of force with your legs extended at hip level. The wind-resistant recumbent bike pedals far more smoothly than other kinds.

Sit in the chair and pedal against slight resistance at a comfortable rate, but once your legs begin to feel heavy or hurt, stop. Wait until you recover, then pedal again. When you can pedal continuously for 30 minutes, three times a week, you should have strong upper thigh muscles and be fit. You can increase your workout by pedaling faster or by increasing the resistance on the pedals.

Recumbent bicycles are ideal for exercisers of all ages and levels of fitness. Anyone who can sit in a chair can use one.

Q: My daughter thinks she can stay in the sun as long as she uses sunscreen. Am I correct in telling her she's still damaging her skin?

A: Your daughter should not assume that sunscreens prevent skin cancer just because they prevent sunburn. No sunscreen blocks all of the sun's rays, and all ultraviolet rays can cause skin cancer. Sunscreens are better than nothing, but the best way to prevent sun damage is to wear protective clothing.

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 32,000 new cases of melanoma this year. One of the other common types of skin cancer, basal cell epithelioma, rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Epitheliomas are dangerous because they keep growing and can erode through everything in their path.

Sunlight also causes wrinkling and aging, and this effect is increased by repeated washing and exposing the skin to strong winds.

Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

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