Turlockers in search of inspiration for their New Year’s resolution to stay fit need look no further than Richard Winkler.
The 91-year-old Covenant Village of Turlock resident was a participant in the senior living community’s “Road Hog Race,” a year-long cycling challenge that saw 74 teams across the nation log as many miles as possible on tech-savvy stationary bikes known as CyberCycles.
Winkler didn’t just compete in the competition, however — he dominated. While the Covenant Village team as a whole cycled their way to a national championship by logging a total of 13,255 miles in 2019, Winkler alone accounted for 5,200 miles. That earned him the title of champion for the single challenge category, beating out 198 other competitors throughout the country.
“It was just a case of keeping track of what other people were doing and making sure they didn’t get to far ahead of me. I kept tallies,” Winkler said. “I was probably the oldest person and I worked the hardest.”
Though he’ll be celebrating his 92nd birthday in a couple of weeks, Winkler is no stranger to the title of CyberCycle champion. In March, he claimed victory during a separate, month-long cycling challenge by peddling 1,118.3 miles in 31 days. During that competition, Winkler bested 1,114 other riders from across the country and of all ages.
The competitions have helped him stay active, he said, and the CyberCycles each competitor rides on have been proven to combat Alzheimer’s disease.
“I think it’s good for us, mentally and physically,” he said. “It keeps us active and going, and it’s just a first-class way to do that.”
Covenant Village received its first CyberCycle in March 2016, ushering in a new, stimulating form of exercise for its residents. Much like any other stationary bike, the CyberCycle 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. Covenant Villagers not only are 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 CyberCycle experienced a 23 percent reduction in progression to mild cognitive impairment, compared to traditional exercisers.
Winkler spent plenty of time on the CyberCycle over the past year, typically logging 11 to 12 miles on the bike in an hour. He encourages other seniors who may think they lack the mobility needed for exercising to hop on a bike and try something new.
“I think it would be the best thing they could do as far as staying fit and feeling good,” Winkler said.
Winkler said he doesn’t plan on winning another championship anytime soon. Though he’ll participate in future cycling challenges, he plans on taking it easy by trying out other settings and trails on the CyberCycle, rather than logging as many miles as he can. At least, that’s the plan for now.
“When you think of 5,200 miles…Why, that’s a lot of pedaling. At my age, I have to be concerned a little bit about my knees and my hips. There’s such a thing as overdoing it, and I can tell when I’ve reached my limit as far as in my joints,” Winkler said. “Next time, I don’t think I’m going to chase it as hard as I have. But, it’s pretty easy to be competitive; I have to hold myself back.”