As Ann Barnes casually pedals next to her 7-year-old daughter, Jacquelyn, on the bike trail at White Rock Lake Park in Dallas, birds float above the lake, buoyed on a steady breeze, much like Ann's mood every time she rides. After being off the bike for years, she rediscovered cycling as a way to spend time with her daughter and start exercising again. Their 20-minute rides, which often include a picnic or playground break, rejuvenate the 48-year-old computer software analyst.
"Getting out, being active, and breathing the fresh air makes us both feel happy," Ann says. "Riding again has given rise to my spirits, so I'm also working out at the gym at lunch. The bike's more fun, though."
Like Ann, you probably have a bike stowed in your garage or basement. Brush off the cobwebs, start riding regularly, and you'll feel an energy boost and shed some pounds. Even if you haven't broken a sweat in years, cycling is an excellent way to ease back into workouts, says Nikki Kimbrough, a New York-based personal trainer and spokesperson for Bally's Total Fitness.
"When you ride, you build base fitness and stamina," says Kimbrough, who also recently started riding again to train for a triathlon. Although cycling is low-impact, the calorie burn can be as high as running. Riding a bike at about 12 mph burns just as many calories as running 5 mph -- without the wear and tear on your knees.
To make returning to the saddle as easy as, well, riding a bike, here's your guide to equipment, bike safety, pacing yourself, and even how to recycle old unused bicycles.