Written by: Dr. David S. Levine, Foot & Ankle Surgeon
About eight years ago a friend of mine suggested that we start riding bicycles for exercise. As an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery, I was receptive to the idea of maintaining my health, though a bit wary of the possibility of injury while moving so quickly. Little did I know that this was the start of a major transformation in my life. I was hooked immediately! Cycling is a low impact exercise. Health benefits include cardiac conditioning, improved pulmonary function, muscular development, reduction in body fat, cholesterol and blood pressure. The benefits extend well beyond physiology. One can ride in a fast-paced group or can leisurely ‘cruise’ through a quiet community on the weekend. As for the competitive nature of the sport, you can compete against your friends or attempt to beat your last best time from seasons past.
As it turned out, a number of the physicians from Hospital for Special Surgery meet daily for a morning ride in Central Park. And we are not alone. There can be up to a hundred cyclists riding around the 6 plus-mile loop each morning. This daily ritual begins shortly before 6am when we meet at the Hospital and ride crosstown to the park. It is important to recognize that cyclists share the park with runners, walkers, rollerbladers, dogs, horses and an occasional raccoon. Not to mention that part of the loop opens to vehicular traffic at 7am. Everyone should obey the rules of the road, be respectful of those moving faster and slower than yourself. Be courteous and cautious and enjoy one of the most beautiful urban cycling opportunities in the world!
As for the HSS Cycling Team, 3 or 4 loops later (at a 22 mph average) we head back to the hospital, clean up and end up in office hours or the operating rooms no later than 8am. The results have been substantial.We often conclude our cycling season by taking a group trip to the mountains of France where we climb some of the famed peaks of the Tour d’ France. The metamorphosis into a thick-legged, skinny torso, Lycra-clad surgeon with colleagues who have become my closest friends has been the reward. So if you’re interested in great, low-impact exercise with like-minded people before the rest of your day begins, start pushing those pedals. See you in the park!