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I have a 7 km bicycle commute to and from work five days a week that I try to keep going all year round. This is the only exercise I get.

If I pedal like crazy (but still abide by the traffic rules) I can make it in 24 minutes and be all sweaty when I arrive. My other alternative is do it in about 30 minutes and not break a sweat.

From a convenience perspective I'd prefer to spend the 6 extra minutes and arrive fresh, but I'm wondering what's best from a long term health perspective? Will exhausting my self give more in terms lowered risk of heart disease etc? And how much of a difference will it make?

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2 Answers 2

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Like many things, the answer to this question depends entirely on what your goals are. I'm going to go out on something of a limb and say that you seem more interested in weight maintenance and heart/lung tone than you do on training or strength gain.

Please take a look these links to get a feeling for what's going on when your heart is at various levels of intensity. Once you find the description that suits your goals best, you will want to stay at or near that zone for as long as possible. For your purposes, I'd guess that you'd be most interested in the aerobic zone, which is a fairly comfortable pace that you should be able to maintain for almost all of your bike ride.

To get an idea of where you are in your heart rate, just put your fingers on your neck and count the beats for 15 seconds while you wait for a stop light or something. You will probably get used to what the zone 'feels' like pretty quickly.

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Varied types and intensities and durations of exercise will challenge your body more than consistent repeated activities. An activity that doesnt make you sweat is not much of an exercise. I would ride hard some days and easy some days, maybe adjusted according to which days you have time to shower :) Also consider intervals, different routes to include hills, and some days of longer rides or even walking/jogging.

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