Thursday, April 17, 2014

BikeWalkLee Column: Use your brain--wear a helmet!

Today's BWL column focuses on the good and bad news about biking and your brain.  Biking does wonderful things for your brain health...but to protect your brain, PLEASE wear a helmet while biking. The tragic death of local meteorologist Jim Reif was just the most recent example of the lack of a bike helmet perhaps being the difference between an injury and a fatality. The tragedy also prompted a letter to the editor about helmets.

BikeWalkLee's Column in News-Press "Go Coastal" section,  April 17, 2014

 It Makes Sense to Wear Bike Helmet

Biking does wonderful things for your brain, sharpening your thinking and shutting down stress. But biking can be bad for your brain, too — as we found out all too tragically this month.

First, the good brain news: According to studies published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 30 minutes of spinning on a stationary bike helps people score higher on tests of memory, reasoning and planning than before they started pedaling.

This adds to a growing body of evidence that aerobic exercise (which includes bicycle time) is a boost for your body in many ways: easing anxiety and depression, improving memory (or slowing its loss), enhancing the ability to concentrate and much more.

Movement makes more blood vessels to feed your brain, giving those cells more of what they need to work. It also fires up the neurons, which intensifies the formation of proteins that promote new brain cells, and encourages the release of neurotransmitters, the messengers between brain cells. More brain cells that can communicate better and faster mean improved memory, concentration and problem-solving skills, according to the folks with letters after their names who study these things.

There's even a sweet spot for brain benefits: 30-60 minutes at roughly 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. Less and you don't see much benefit from the processes it unleashes; more and the rest of your body is clamoring for so much attention from the cell-building resources that the brain doesn't get all it needs.

Now, if you're riding to beat the blues, a different study suggests three to five sessions of 45-60 minutes each per week, working hard enough to keep your heart between 50-85 percent of maximum. Can't find that kind of time? Even 20-30 minutes a day can help ward off depression, some say.

Set an example for your grandkids!
 Studies are great, but reality often has a very different face – and, as we've seen in a very high-profile way, the reality is that biking can also be very bad for your brain. Well, not biking per se – but falling from your bike – the No. 1 cause of bike crashes – and all too frequently when not wearing a helmet.

The tragic death of local meteorologist Jim Reif was just the most recent example of the lack of a bike helmet perhaps being the difference between an injury and a fatality. It also underscores the tenuous nature of biking, where one slip can have serious consequences.

That's not a reason to park your bike in the garage forever. But it should convince you to look at the steps you can take to keep yourself safe on your bike – and, frankly, wearing a helmet is at the top of the list.

It's not perfect — you can still be injured while wearing a helmet, although it reduces the chances of major head trauma or death by 85 percent (concussions are still a possibility). It's not foolproof. Wear it wrong and it's not much better than not wearing it at all. And it's not widespread: A recent survey on the Sanibel bike path system found fewer than four out of every 10 riders were wearing a helmet.

But it is smart, particularly if you're riding in traffic or on uneven or unrepaired surfaces (or if you're trying to set an example for your kids, who have to wear one). It's even prudent if you're riding on a protected and placid bike path, because one sudden stop gone wrong can put you over the handlebars all too easily. It's also mandatory if you participate in almost any organized ride or competition because the organizers are trying to limit their liability, which should tell you something.

There are myriad excuses not to ride with a helmet: It's too hot, it's too bulky, it looks funny, I'm not really riding that far, you name it. There's just one good reason to wear it: It can save your life.

Dan Moser outfits Commissioner Mann with a helmet
So put on that helmet. Protect your brain so it can benefit from all the good things biking and exercise can do for it. Protect yourself so you can have a ride you'll always remember … not one your loved ones wish they could forget.

— BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets designed, built, operated and maintained for safe, convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities.

[last two photos added by BWL--not published in News-Press]

News-Press Letter to Editor on Sunday 4/20/14--"Helmet Protection"
Thanks to the citizen who wrote this letter to editor encouraging parents to make sure their kids wear helmets while biking.

Island Reporter Letter to Editor 4/11/14--"Helmets on my mind"
Thanks to Sid Simon for his letter and ongoing efforts to encourage parents and grandparents to be good models and always wear a helmet.

Upcoming events
Saturday: Ears & Eggs 5K, Gateway (
May 3: Run for Kayla 5K, 7:30 a.m., Patriot Elementary School, Cape Coral (
May 10: Turtle Trot 5K, Lovers Key State Park, 8 a.m. (
May 17: Cape Cops 5K, , Cape Coral Yacht Club Community Park, 5819 Driftwood Parkway, Cape Coral, 7:30 a.m. (

Cycling & other events
April 26: Fight for Air Stair Climb, 26, High Point Place, downtown Fort Myers (
May 10: Cape Coral Yacht Club Sprint Triathlon, Cape Coral Yacht Club Community Park, 5819 Driftwood Parkway, Cape Coral, 7 a.m. (

May 21: Ride of Silence, 7 p.m. Centennial Park, 2000 West First Street, Fort Myers (under the Bridge at Heitman and Bay streets). Cyclists will ride in a silent funeral-style procession at 10-12 mph for 8 miles to honor those who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. Riders are requested to wear black armbands or red if they have been injured in a cycling versus motor vehicle accident. More details Everyone welcome. Free of charge. No registration necessary

Tell Us About Your Ride
Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you'd like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

No comments:

Post a Comment

BikeWalkLee is not responsible for the validity of any comment posted at this site and has the right to remove any comment at any time.