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Equally, step away from the Daily Mail to avoid confusing messages about exercise and health

MAMILs: Step away from the bicycle - it could be harming you!

That’s the message from the Daily Mail, anyway, who published a story this week stating that although men aged between 35 and 44 were buying bikes in their droves, the high intensity exercise they were embarking on could have a serious impact on their cardiovascular health.

Of course, the Daily Mail is notorious for its health scare stories; one only has to glance at the Daily Mail’s A-Z of Things That Give You Cancer to be aware of that, and in its inimitable style has already published a number of contradictory articles including ‘Exercise 'beats drugs for heart and stroke patients': Study finds prescribing physical activity could revolutionise patients' health’, ‘Why having a heart attack while you're doing exercise is less likely to kill than if you're a couch potato’, ‘Excess exercise 'hurts the heart' and cause dangerous long-term harm, say scientists’ and ‘A stroll can cut risk of heart disease by half’.

But despite the paper’s inability to decide whether exercise is good for your heart or not, are there any lessons to be taken from the impressive array of experts consulted for their piece?

Eddie Chaloner, a consultant vascular surgeon at Lewisham Hospital, South-East London told the paper that the risk of stroke in unconditioned, new athletes, is high - something that the BBC presenter Andrew Marr discovered to his cost when he took up high-intensity rowing in middle age.

“I see a lot of middle-aged men in my clinic who have taken up excessive exercise because they have hit 40,' said Mr Chaloner. 'They have panicked because they have put on weight or got high blood pressure and may have been referred to me for further investigations.

“But people don't realise that, aside from the risk of a heart attack, taking up exercise this way can actually lead to heart problems. Excessive exercise in middle-aged men can trigger atrial fibrillation - a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate.

“One in five strokes is caused by this - and the kind of stroke caused by atrial fibrillation is more likely to be fatal.”

Cycling could be particularly risky, apparently. Professor Tony Kochhar, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at South London Healthcare NHS Trust told the paper.

“Cycling, for example, can be a particular problem for the hips. The body is no longer designed to deliver the way it could in our youth, so we have to adapt.”

But there’s hope for those who love to get out on their bike.

Hugh Montgomery, professor of intensive care medicine and director of the Institute for Human Health and Performance at University College, London, told the paper: “Exercise can help reduce the risk of so many health conditions from obesity and depression to diabetes and bowel cancer - which is the second most likely disease after heart disease to kill middle-aged men.”

Studies also found improvements in men’s sex lives and metal agility when they took part in exercise, leading the controversial newspaper to suggest some fairly sensible routes into exercise - for those who feel it’s worth the risk.

According to the Daily Mail: How to get into exercise

It's advisable to find out  if you are already at an increased risk of heart disease through diabetes or high blood pressure - both of which can be assessed through blood tests organised by your GP.

Tell your doctor of any family history of heart disease and stroke. It's then important to start by spending several weeks simply becoming more active during the day, perhaps by using the stairs or walking to the shops, says John Dearing, a sports injury surgeon at Carrick Glen Hospital in Ayr.  

After that, build up your fitness level slowly, perhaps walking 20 to 40 minutes, three times a week.

'You should walk, cycle or whatever you choose to do with enough exertion to become mildly breathless, but you should still be able to talk in sentences,' adds Professor Montgomery.

It's not just your heart you need to protect. Warming up is very important to avoid muscle strain - this should take up about 10 per cent of the time of your session, says John Miles, the medical head at Cardiff Blues rugby club.

This could include basic movements such as lunges, squats and stretches for the lower limb muscles.

Once you feel as if fitness has improved, and you want to start speeding up then do this gradually.

Dr Dearing adds: 'If you take up, say, jogging, start by doing ten to 15 minutes. If you manage that without a problem, then do 20 minutes the following day.'

Establish distance before you think about speed.

Once you can jog a mile-and-a-half, you can vary your run with ten seconds of sprinting, followed by slowing down for a minute and then repeating three times - a system known as Fartlek training (from the Swedish for 'speed play', it means varying exercise with periods of intensity).

It's important to keep note of any symptoms that could suggest a strain on your cardiovascular system.

Dr Thomas warns: 'If you have any chest pain or discomfort when exercising, you must get it checked out.

'Heart pain occurs as a crushing pain across the chest, not just on the left side as people mistakenly think. Nausea and breathlessness when exercising can also be a sign of heart issues.'

Unfortunately, there is no cast-iron guarantee that your heart will be fine. But as Dr Dearing points out: 'Increasing physical activity has huge benefits - and some exercise is always better than none.

'But take a sensible approach, otherwise you run the risk of doing more harm than good.'

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

44 comments

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kknb2162 [5 posts] 3 years ago
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Ridiculous conclusions, no risk comparison of stroke in the newly exercising (I imagine not very high) compared to those who sit on their arse all day eating crisps and smoking (much higher I'd guess). God I hate the mail.

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jason.timothy.jones [293 posts] 3 years ago
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The only reason the DM is still in business is that the country is so full of mindless drones that actually believe this rubbish, there is a guy that does a blog on rubbish stories, mostly they come from the DM, have a look, some are really funny http://bad-pr.tumblr.com/

It about time we get some really strong press standards happening.

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Forester [121 posts] 3 years ago
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Mail has never apologised for its stance on MMR, awful rag

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jmaccelari [250 posts] 3 years ago
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It's actually a good article if you read it properly.

If you are NOT used to exercise, don't go out too hard. You DO have a much greater chance of injuring yourself. The Mail article says nothing about avoiding bicycle exercise as long as you approach it properly. Good advice.

I have seen an unfit cyclist die from a needless heart attack by pushing himself too hard, and it wasn't necessary.

Shame on road.cc here for the sensationalist reporting! Your article from the headline down is complete, misrepresentational rubbish!

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deblemund [263 posts] 3 years ago
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I've been riding again since January. I've lost well over a stone, and now have a resting pulse 48 and BP of 117/59 - roughly the same as 20 years ago.

There's some sense in not trying to go from couch potato to climbing Alpe d'Huez on your first ride in case you've already got a problem. Perhaps in their cackhanded way that's what they're trying to say?

At least they didn't say that saddles make you infertile.

"Nausea and breathlessness can be a sign of heart disease"? I thought it was a sign that you're going uphill...

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BertYardbrush [60 posts] 3 years ago
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Daily Mail readers are obviously so unfit that they have to go through a whole rigmarole of gradual excercise regime in order to get dressed in the morning. Picking the paper from the hall floor leaves them dizzy and thinking about putting one foot in front of the other risks palpitations.

Good grief! The Daily Mail exists to state the bleeding obvious in the most alarming way possible. These's more sense in Andrex.

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bendertherobot [1381 posts] 3 years ago
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Cycling can be bad for your hips?

REALLY?  21

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 3 years ago
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IF YOU ACTUALLY READ IT ...

The whole Daily Mail article, while somewhat sensationalised (quelle surprise!) is a warning to build up exercise gently, know your limits and consult your doctor - all good advice!

Seriously - I'm disappointed in a number of posters above who clearly went for DM-bashing first, before actually considering the piece on it's merit

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kitkat [409 posts] 3 years ago
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bendertherobot wrote:

Cycling can be bad for your hips?

REALLY?  21

Actually the answer is yes. The action of cycling shortens the hip flexors which can lead to lower back pain and affect your pelvic tilt which has a knock on effect to your posture.

Cycling isn't the primary cause but it will be a feeder. E.g you sit most of the day then you drive/ride/bus to work then sit in front of TV/turbo/internet. Even sleeping, unless your straight, flat on your back then they will be flexed. that doesn't leave a lot of time to extended those hip flexors.

As others have said, the jist of the article is correct but every media outlet needs a shocking/attention grabbing headline.

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archie gordon [7 posts] 3 years ago
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i had a heart attack 11 years ago,once i recovered i was advised to take up some form of exercise . I used to run marathons my best time being 3 hours 3 but felt running would put to much stress on my joints so got back on the bike ,I now cycle 80 to 100 miles a week. I will be 63 in january. cycling has improved my health,fitness,and even my general mood. my advice is start slowly and build up the miles and just enjoy it

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pmr [198 posts] 3 years ago
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Just get out enjoy life and MTFU

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Ghostie [93 posts] 3 years ago
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Very poor written article, even if some of the advice is useful for newbies. Angela Epstein seems to be confused with the MAMIL tag and I think that's why it got on here; it hardly mentions cycling in the piece other than a stat about bike sales, focussing more on running. Runners don't generally wear lycra whilst out running - Gordon Ramsey probably did as he was training for an Ironman, which included time on a bike.

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banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 3 years ago
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I'd rather go out in a blaze of glory, 50mph blasting down one of the Lake District's passes than as a fat cough potatoe eating a big Mac.

When the grim reaper comes calling it's time to go and there's nothing you can do about it , so stop worrying.

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Leviathan [2468 posts] 3 years ago
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Seems like we have identified the source of the shocking burden on the NHS: the Daily Mail. Warning people not to get on their bikes and sending them to the doctors needlessly. I wonder what DM will be complaining about next week?

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adriank999 [77 posts] 3 years ago
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I was quite smug. At age sixty six I could cycle fifty miles in a day and climb most hills, rarely having to go down to the ‘Granny Gear’ on my hybrid bike. Not exactly light weight with the decent lock, comprehensive tool kit, spare tube, small first aid kit, water bottle, extra bottle of energy drink, lightweight jacket and waterproof jacket, just in case it rains.

I had a heart attack last Sunday after riding just 500 yards. I had been getting some chest pains for a week or two and whilst waiting for tests my GP advised me to ring 999 if the pains persisted after cycling. I did as he said. One artery had narrowing and they fixed me up with a stent. The damage was minimal.

They let me out of hospital in just 24 hours because of my general fitness, e.g. resting pulse rate of mid fifties. I’m convinced the regular cycling to work and in retirement taking any opportunity to use my bike to the local shops and local longer rides was responsible for surviving the attack.
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ragtimecyclist [158 posts] 3 years ago
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More to the point, studies show that engaging in exercise leads to an improvement in men's sex life...?

Sod this reading lark, I'm off out for a ride!

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Dr. Ko [200 posts] 3 years ago
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Well, using a bike might help e.g. to get out of Daily Mail distribution area:

http://innercitymobility.blogspot.de/2013/10/c-like-country-side.html

Guess, that is what they are afraid of!

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Karbon Kev [688 posts] 3 years ago
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What a complete load of rubbish, as usual from this rag that likes to call itself a newspaper ...

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Carl [142 posts] 3 years ago
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Read the Daily Mail and give your brain a complete rest.

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William Black [193 posts] 3 years ago
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After wading through the sensationalism and general daily mail tripe they have got a point, some of the chaps you see out there mid 50's a bit fat dressed up in Garmin/Strava, Flash Bike, Rapha and Assos turning a beetroot shade of purple as they weave wildly up the hills, would probably be a bit better off with a Hybrid bike and getting some gentler rides in for a year or so.

I think basically all the article is saying is exercise, bit if you've never done anything before work up gently, especially if you're in a 'higher risk' category like a middle aged male who's got a few pounds of excess.

All fairly sensible stuff, which is rather surprising considering the publication.

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allez neg [496 posts] 3 years ago
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I was going to call them a cunch of bunts but that trivialises and humourises the insult, something they don't deserve, so sorry for the sweariness but.......

They're a bunch of cunts.

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allez neg [496 posts] 3 years ago
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You can crack on with your ride. I'm off for a shag  4

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allez neg [496 posts] 3 years ago
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Meant as a reply to ragtime....

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Northernbike [228 posts] 3 years ago
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The only way the Daily Mail causes me to worry about my health when I'm riding my bike is the knowledge that some of the drivers I'm sharing the road with read it

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lookmanohands [119 posts] 3 years ago
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Rule #5

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Rupert49 [40 posts] 3 years ago
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Putting the heading of "News" relating to anything from the Daily Mail must be an oxymoron.

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dunnoh [210 posts] 3 years ago
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The Mail prints this kind of thing to get page view revenue. If you don't like what the Mail prints then don't buy it and don't click on any links. They will only change if revenue goes down.

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Tripod16 [161 posts] 3 years ago
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banzicyclist2 wrote:

I'd rather go out in a blaze of glory, 50mph blasting down one of the Lake District's passes than as a fat cough potatoe eating a big Mac.

When the grim reaper comes calling it's time to go and there's nothing you can do about it , so stop worrying.

The Grim Reaper better be laying down some heavy V with some wholesale commitment to Rule 10 because I'm not leaving easily!

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700c [1040 posts] 3 years ago
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Er.... This article is more sensationalist than the DM's.

Yes, there is excessive use of 'MAMIL' to categorise this group, and a risk of getting the wrong impression if you only read the headline, but once you read the article it makes some valid, reasonable points.

But I'm sorry if that is such an unpalatable idea for most Road CC'ers!

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William Black [193 posts] 3 years ago
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700c wrote:

But I'm sorry if that is such an unpalatable idea for most Road CC'ers!

Why read the actual article when you can just bash the Daily Mail*.

*Bashing the Daily Mail may not necessarily be a bad thing.

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