What shape are you in?

by Bob Worthington
© Copyright 2022. All rights reserved!
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine June/July 2022 Digital Issue

The average age of today’s student pilot is 33. The average age of pilots in general is 44. Obviously, pilots are not young whipper snappers. To be able to legally fly, a pilot must be current and meet physical standards, that is, be in decent shape.

Unfortunately, 42.4% of adults in America are obese. This could lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, or some forms of cancer, all of which could result in a medical disqualification to fly. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that each adult do 150 minutes of moderate activity a week (such as brisk walking) and participate in muscle strengthening activity twice a week. Only 25% of American adults meet these guidelines.

I am a poster child for what not to do. As a writer I experience a sedentary lifestyle. Additionally, I am lazy. I know better. I used to be a professional athlete in my 20s… I am now 85. I also used to teach classes in exercise physiology, mental conditioning, and weight control as a sport psychologist. I have all my hair (it’s still brown), all my teeth and don’t need glasses. But as I confessed, I am lazy and overweight. My gym is just an 8-minute walk away, but my usage is infrequent.

My legs don’t work very well, either, because all my bones below my waist have been broken from motorcycle accidents, an Army parachute jump and gunshot wounds. Also, exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam destroyed my heart, but a few surgeries (and plenty of meds) have me still vertical and mobile. See, I have plenty of reasons not to exercise.

How does my lifestyle match yours? Statistically, the chances are what we do or fail to do is quite similar. But I learned how to change that, in a manner that even defeats my laziness.

A few weeks ago, I tuned in my favorite TV cowboy channel looking for Roy Rogers or Gene Autry westerns (both were pilots, by the way). Being late at night, there were no movies, but there was an infomercial about some exercise equipment for home use. I was ready to turn it off when a phrase caught my attention: “As little as 10 minutes a day can improve your physical condition.” No, I thought, this is just another scam to get me to buy something. But my curiosity got the best of me, so I sat down to watch the entire show. With my background in exercising, I began to think, “this equipment may have merit.” The next day I began my research and decided this equipment could become an easy way to exercise and meet the CDC guidelines on physical activity. Thus, I ordered one from Amazon.

Slim Cycle

This column is not a paid advertisement, but rather I wish to share my experience using the exercise equipment called “Slim Cycle.” As I write this column, I have had my Slim Cycle for a month and here is what I have discovered.

Again, adults should spend 150 minutes a week doing aerobic and strength conditioning exercises. Aerobic (or cardiovascular) exercises include running, walking, swimming, or cycling. Strength exercises involve lifting weights, using resistance bands, or using your body weight doing push-ups, sit-ups, etc. Slim Cycle allows you to do both at the same time.

Bob Worthington doing his workout on his Slim Cycle.

The Slim Cycle is a sturdy stationary bike with weight resistance cords. The cycle can be set up as a stationary bike or lowered to become a recumbent bike. It costs $200.00 (but Amazon sells like-new cycles for less) and comes disassembled. Assembly is easy (it took two of us less than an hour, not rushing) and all tools are included. A how-to-do-it video is available on the Slim Cycle website: slim-cycle.com. The bike occupies a space of 21 by 46 inches, weighs about 45 pounds, and can hold a 300-pound person. It also folds up and has rollers for easy storage in a closet, for instance. Just don’t make the mistake and leave it there.

The Slim Cycle is comfortable (extra padding for the seat is available) and operates as a typical stationary bike. The difference is where the front handlebars meet the bike frame, there are two resistance band handles to grasp while doing the strength exercises using the arms. Both the pedaling and strength bands are adjustable for resistance.

A common question for conditioning experts is which is the best exercise…fewer reps and more weights or more reps with less weights. There is no right response. Less reps with more weights increase muscle mass and strength, while more reps with less weights are best for overall endurance. But most pilots do not want to emulate Arnold Schwarzenegger, just increase, or maintain their endurance, so the Slim Cycle resistance bands are best for that.

A second query is, which is more beneficial…one long exercise session or more but shorter sessions? Several studies have concluded that more frequent but shorter exercise workouts are better for the heart and weight loss than doing it all at once. One main reason for favoring this usage is that most people avoid exercising if it is inconvenient. Shorter workouts are less intrusive for busy people and easier to engage in. This convenience of exercising encourages more workouts.

The bike also has a battery-operated computer system (control panel) to provide feedback on your usage. It functions as a scanning display or can focus on one item. It shows the time in use (which I reset to zero after each workout), speed pedaling in mph, distance covered in miles, calories expended, total miles of all workouts, and pulse rate (measured by holding the heart monitor grips on the handlebars). Workout videos and apps are available, but I have not needed them.

Consider this. The life expectancy of industrialized countries is increasing. Americans are living longer. Medical science and health care allows us to be active longer. Pilots today are continuing to fly into their 70s and 80s. To do this they must remain healthy and fit to pass their FAA medical exams. That requires healthy diets and exercise. The Slim Cycle is an easy and convenient way for pilots to remain fit.

My first day, I worked out for 5 minutes, and all went well. The next day, 10 minutes; the next, 15 minutes, which I continued for a week. The next week I went twice a day, 10 minutes each, for seven days. I am now up to 30 minutes a day (cycling twice a day). The Slim Cycle is only 20 steps from my computer. It is so convenient that even I can no longer find excuses not to exercise. I can take breaks during the day to achieve 30 minutes. I have my Slim Cycle in my bedroom, but it can be used anywhere. One could pop off 15 minutes before going to work and another 15 minutes after dinner. The Slim Cycle easily fits into a den or office or can be readily rolled into a living room to use.

But the big question is, does it work? My normal heart rate is 60 beats per minute. Initially, at the end of a 15-minute session, my heart rate went into the high 80s and low 90s per minute. A month later the high heart rate is in the low 70s and returns to 60 in a minute. I expend over 230 calories each day (at 30 minutes) cycling over six miles. In the first four weeks, I have lost 3.2 pounds (but for half that time, I was not yet on daily 30-minute workouts, and I never changed my diet). My muscles are larger, and my walking has improved slightly. Most improved is the vascular system in my legs. Before Slim Cycle, I wore compression hose to reduce swelling in my feet, ankles, and lower legs. In four weeks, the swelling is gone, and compression hoses are no longer needed.

I am convinced. Using the Slim Cycle has made exercising for me easier than ever before! It is convenient and a short workout has done wonders to my body. Go to www.slim-cycle.com and check it out yourself. This has been the best exercise decision I have ever made!

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this column is the expressed opinion of the author only and is not intended to be health advice. Readers are urged to seek the advice of others, including their health care professional, before exercising. Neither the author, Midwest Flyer Magazine, Flyer Publications, Inc., or their staffs, employees or advertisers assume any liability for the accuracy or content of this column or any other column or article in this publication.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pilot, Viet Nam veteran and former university professor, Bob Worthington of Las Cruces, New Mexico, is the author of “Under Fire with ARVN Infantry” (https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/Under-Fire-with-ARVN-Infantry/), and producer of the 2019 film “Combat Advisor in Vietnam” (www.borderlandsmedia.com). Facebook: Bob Worthington Writer. Website: www.BobWorthingtonWriter.com. Bob Worthington has placed excerpts about combat flying in Vietnam (from his books) on his website. Here is a direct link to those excerpts: www.BobWorthingtonWriter.com/combat-flying-in-vietnam/. Every couple of months, he adds another excerpt.

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