It is important to understand how indoor cycling can benefit the nervous system, especially for older students. Presumably, all instructors can talk about the cardiovascular and strength benefits. But you may not know that indoor cycling can have preventative effects on the neurological deterioration associated with aging.
In fact, indoor cycling can even serve as an effective component in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and some other neurological conditions. More on that later, but first let’s talk about the neurological benefits for all of the older students in your classes.
The nervous system controls all bodily movement. As we age there are structural changes that occur in the nervous system, including in the brain itself. The total number of motor neurons declines and there is a 10%–15% decrease in brain matter weight. There is a thinning of the dendritic branches that provide communication between neurons. There are also changes in the hormonal neurotransmitters such as dopamine, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine.
The upshot of this is that communication signals travel more slowly in the central and peripheral nervous system as we age.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, here are some of the conditions that change with aging. Along with each I have noted their importance for you as an instructor:
Bill Roach, one of our regular ICA contributors, just signed up for Medicare. In addition to his indoor cycle instruction, he is a personal trainer specializing in working with older adults. The Des Moines, Iowa, YMCA Healthy Living Center, where he works, is a unique quasi-medical facility that specializes in using exercise to combat disease conditions. He is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM-CPT) and has speciality certifications as a Corrective Exercise Specialist (NASM-CES), Functional Movement System Professional (FMSC), and as a Senior Fitness Specialist (NASM-SFS).
Other articles in this series:
The Aging Indoor Cyclist, Part 1: Getting to Know Their Needs
The Aging Indoor Cyclist, Part 2: Younger Next Year
The Aging Indoor Cyclist, Part 3: The Psychosocial Aspects of Aging
The Aging Indoor Cyclist, Part 4: The Benefit of Indoor Cycling on the Aging Nervous System