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Biking to Beijing
Senior cyclers participate in fitness challenge
biking to bejing
Covenant Living of Turlock residents Harry Carlson (left) and Jerry Hawkins (right) participate in the Bike to Beijing challenge on their Cyber Cycles. Jerry Hawkins leads the facility with the most miles at 209 as of Wednesday (Photo contributed).

With less than a month until the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, residents at Covenant Living of Turlock are taking charge of their own fitness goals by virtually biking the distance to China.

While those who live at the senior living facility have participated in virtual fitness challenges before, the most recent endeavor is a bit different from those in the past. Previously, residents would compete against other senior living facilities to see who could rack up the most miles on their tech-savvy stationary bikes known as Cyber Cycles.

This time around, seniors from the various Covenant Living facilities are working together, rather than against each other, to complete the 6,922-mile journey from Washington, DC to Beijing. 

“The residents are so used to being competitive,” fitness coordinator Kristi Manor said. “I have to remind them that we are all working together, but just for some friendly competition I have let them know that we are in second place.”

Covenant Living of Turlock received its first Cyber Cycle in March 2016, ushering in a new, stimulating form of exercise for its residents, and recently purchased a second. Much like any other stationary bike, the Cyber Cycle allows the rider to pedal in place. What sets the piece of equipment apart from other bikes are the virtual environments that the rider can navigate. Residents are not only able to exercise their bodies while riding, but their minds as well thanks to the motivating and interactive scenery that they can steer through.

Recent studies have shown that combining physical exercise with computer-simulated environments and interactive video game features can yield greater cognitive benefits than traditional exercise alone for older adults, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. It was reported that older adults who exercised regularly with the Cyber Cycle experienced a 23 percent reduction in progression to mild cognitive impairment, compared to traditional exercisers.

Covenant Living of Turlock residents have spent plenty of time on their Cyber Cycles since the Bike to Beijing challenge first started on Jan. 3, racking up a total of 736 miles as of Wednesday. In total, all Covenant Living communities have ridden 4,725 miles and have until the opening ceremonies on Feb. 4 to complete the trek. 

“Within the past week or so we’ve been able to really get more residents involved. We have a total of 20 riding participants and we started out with just five,” Manor said. “They're all just doing a little bit of miles at a time, but we do have some residents that are definitely putting in a lot of miles.” 

One of those residents is Jerry Hawkins, who had amassed 209 miles himself as of Wednesday. The competition’s oldest participant at Covenant Living of Turlock is 95-year-old Roy Haug. 

“Not only is it a way to engage the residents to stay active, but it also challenges their memory and can help with their dementia. So, for all of our residents that may be struggling with those things, it really helps them. It also helps delay those things if they aren’t struggling with them,” Manor said. “It’s great not just for the physical, but the mental as well.”