Retirement Life
27 February 2023

The joys of cycling

For Dr Patterson Stark, 70, cycling has been a part of his life since his first banana seat bike in the 1950s. “I have cycled all through my life,” says Patterson. “One of the first things I can remember from my childhood is getting off my training wheels.”


Born and raised in California, Patterson has lived in Christchurch, New Zealand, for the last 20 years. As a USA-trained and board-certified chiropractor and double board-certified health practitioner in lifestyle medicine and anti-ageing medicine, he knows a thing or two about the benefits of cycling.

I came back to cycling in my early 60s,

says Patterson. “The bike, for me as a child, was the first exploration of my universe. I went to school on it, and I met people on it, but the bike got put to the side when I learnt to drive. And as the years matured, I did other activities. And then I came back to cycling.”


Low impact exercise

Because cycling is gentle on the joints and muscles, it’s an ideal form of physical activity for retirees. “It still provides a great cardiovascular workout and can help to reduce the occurrence and impact of heart disease, stroke and other chronic conditions,” says Patterson. “Increased heart and lung metabolism are better for everything.”

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Improves cardiovascular health

“We know that increased cardiovascular endurance and pulmonary function are directly opposed to the number one reason for death,” says Patterson. “So by cycling, people can forestall death and improve their quality of life.”

Strengthens muscles

Cycling is a great way to build leg and core strength, as well as improve balance and coordination. This can help prevent falls and injuries, which is especially important as we age. “There’s data to suggest that when women reach the age of 75 and break a hip, 25 percent of the time, they don’t make it another year,” says Patterson. “So better physical awareness, balance and coordination are really important as we age.”


Mental health benefits

Cycling can also provide mental health benefits, such as reduced stress and anxiety. Being outside and enjoying the fresh air while exercising can bring mental clarity, an overall sense of wellbeing and improved mood.

Social interaction

Cycling is also a great way to socialise and meet new people. Patterson is a great believer in exercising with others, saying, “I joined a biking group locally. I’m the oldest guy in the group, but it’s great to get out with others. And I’m stronger than when I started riding with them!”


There are plenty of biking groups in all the major cities of New Zealand. Christchurch, for example, offers a range of workshops and coaching at the Christchurch Adventure Park, from beginners’ classes to women’s-only groups. Waka Kotahi offers safe cycling BikeReady workshops for seniors, to help people gain confidence and skills for the road conditions. Many cities and towns have dedicated bike lanes and trails that are designed to be safer and less congested than roads.


There’s minimal equipment required for cycling – just a bike and a helmet – making it an affordable way to stay active. Patterson started mountain biking in his 60s initially and would go out several times a week. And in 2016, he took up e-mountain biking. “I was an early adopter,” says Patterson. “The e-mountain bike allowed me to ride daily as opposed to having a recovery day. And so that increased my abilities.

Just sitting on a bike and pedalling, even though it has a battery on it, is movement. And it still requires effort. But it’s a great way to get your 30 minutes of exercise a day without the side effects of tearing down too much muscle or finding a hill you can’t go up.”


Patterson Stark is now an Ambassador for Specialized Bikes and regularly travels the country with his e-bike.

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“I did the Old Ghost Road a couple of months ago, and next month we’re going to do the Otago Rail Trail and the Dunstan Trail. Biking now features in all of our holidays.”

Photo of Kathy Catton
Written by:

Kathy Catton

Kathy Catton is a freelance writer and editor, based on the Banks Peninsula. She is an experienced feature writer, magazine editor and copywriter. Quick to grasp the crux of any story and tell it in plain English, Kathy enjoys bringing stories to readers that surprise and delight.

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