Health Benefits of Regular Cycling
If you're searching for an excuse to start cycling, you don't have to look far. Some obvious ones include more time outside, simpler commutes, environmental factors, and the wonderful benefit of not having to look for parking! While the efficiency of biking is great, one of the best motivators to get on your bike is the myriad of health benefits that cycling provides.
Health Benefits of Cycling
It's no secret that regular exercise can lead to positive health outcomes. As our fitness increases, humans typically gain muscle and cardiovascular strength while losing fat and reducing the risk of certain diseases. Any form of movement is better than sitting on your couch, but some types of physical activity such as cycling have more health benefits than others.
Here are a few reasons you should consider hopping on your bike and setting off on a few two-wheeled adventures.
Increased Cardiovascular Benefits and Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Cycling reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, including strokes, high blood pressure and heart attacks. A Danish study that spanned 14 years and had 30,000 participants aged 20 to 93 years found that regular cycling protected people from heart disease.
Cycling can help to reduce not only the onset of chronic diseases but the risk of heart disease altogether. Increases in cardiorespiratory fitness and cardiovascular fitness can help to combat coronary heart disease which may occur in as much as 50 percent of the population.
When you bike, your heart rate increases, stimulating your heart, respiratory system and circulation. Regular cardiovascular exercise will help strengthen your heart muscles, in turn lowering your resting heart rate and reducing blood pressure.
Commuters who bike to work have a 46 per cent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If they do develop cardiovascular disease, these riders have a 52 per cent lower risk of dying from the condition.
One study also found that high blood pressure, which is correlated with cardiovascular disease in some people, can be reduced by 4.3 per cent after three months of cycling, and 11.8 per cent after six months.
Cycling and Mental health
2018 study with more than one million participants found that individuals who exercised had 43.2 per cent fewer days of poor mental health than individuals who did not exercise. Participants who cycled as their main form of exercise had the second-highest level of good mental health days (team sports was the first go to for a ride with a friend!).
Bikes make you Smarter
During a cycling activity, blood flow to the brain increases by 28 per cent and up to 70 per cent in specific areas. Even shortly after exercise ends some areas of the brain maintain 40 per cent higher blood flow.
Starting your morning off with a bike ride will have positive repercussions for the rest of the day.
And, when getting into a daily routine, you are more inclined to make healthy choices after morning exercise and may find that, as the day progresses, you have more energy than you normally would.
Getting into the habit of cycling consistently will benefit your health even when you're not actively biking. Active individuals burn more fat (even off the bike), have less difficulty focusing attention, are less stressed and have more overall energy throughout the day.
Reduced risk of Certain Diseases
Though it's sometimes hard to isolate why some people are burdened with illnesses while others are not, scientists can still correlate certain activities with a reduced risk of diagnosis.
Studies have found that long-term exercise may reduce the risk of some forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's. A number of new studies have also begun exploring cycling as a way to improve cognitive function in patients with mild Alzheimer's disease.
Healthier Weight and Body Fat Percentage
Cycling burns calories, which promotes weight loss. Whether you're biking to train for a race or commuting a few days a week, any time you head out for a ride you're burning calories.
Biking also builds muscle, and those with a higher percentage of muscle burn more calories even when they aren't moving. Depending on your metabolic rate, steady cycling can burn around 300 calories per hour. So not only can cycling help combat weight gain, it can even help you to lose weight. Clinical studies have even shown a positive correlation between people who cycle and low body fat percentages.
Or A Good Excuse To Eat More!
Not only is bicycle riding (or any form of exercise) a way to lose weight - it can help you maintain equilibrium. A cycling workout is a great excuse to add a couple of extra snacks to your day!
Lower Cancer Risk
One long-term study determined that men who exercised at a moderate level for at least 30 minutes a day were half as likely to develop cancer as those who didn't.
Transit and Exercise
There are many reasons cycling is a great way to get around, but one of the bestselling points is the efficiency of getting a little workout in while going about your daily tasks.
You don't need to get completely covered in sweat to benefit from a commute. Bike commuters' profit from many of the same health benefits (to varying degrees) as those putting their bike kit on and going out for an after-work ride.
Bike commuters are also reducing carbon emissions, which, ultimately, will have a contribution to the health of everyone on the planet, not just their own.
Improved Immune System
Cycling (instead of taking public transit) greatly reduces your risk of exposure to germs that could get you sick.
Cycling can also benefit your immune system in other, more subtle ways. Cycling has major health benefits for the upper respiratory system, the area most affected by the common cold. It also improves the immune system by increasing the production of essential proteins and bolstering white blood cells.
It's important for those with and without lung conditions to keep their lungs healthy through regular physical activity. Many medical professionals will recommend cycling as a means of maintaining a healthy respiratory system.
Less Air Pollution Exposure
Improved Joint Mobility and Flexibility
Not only could bike riding potentially lead to strengthened bones, but the nearly stress-free movements involved can reduce strain on body parts like hips, knees, and feet. With improved mobility may also come improved flexibility.
There's nothing better than a good night's sleep. Cycling can help you get the essential deep sleep that is required to feel fully rested in the morning.
During a 35-year sleep study, University of Georgia researchers analysed the health habits of more than 8,000 men and women between the ages of 20 and 85. As participants became less fit over time, they had more trouble getting an uninterrupted night of rest. Just a two per cent decline in fitness for men and a four per cent decline in fitness for women would lead to worse quality of sleep.
Cycling reduces stress, which in turn leads to better sleep and higher sleep quality. It also reduces sleep apnea risk.
Regular cycling helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which means you're more likely to feel sleepy when you should feel sleepy, instead of lying in bed very awake after feeling exhausted all day.
A King's College London study compared more than 2,400 identical twins to see how cycling changed their telomere length, an indicator of ageing.
Even after discounting other influences, such as body mass index (BMI) and smoking, the researchers found that those who did the equivalent of just three 45-minute rides a week were nine years ‘biologically younger.'
Be Kind To Your Bowels
Experts from Bristol University, have even stated that cycling (and any physical activity) can help food move through your intestines, decrease water reabsorption and give you softer "movements"! Improved exercise may also decrease your risk of colorectal cancers
Other Benefits of Exercise
Biking doesn't just have potential health benefits either but a whole host of other knock-on positives.
There's a reason for the expression “just like riding a bike”. If you're getting on a bike for the first time in a while you might feel a bit shaky, but soon enough you'll rarely be thinking about your stability. Your vestibular system, the sensory system that provides the leading contribution to the sense of balance and spatial orientation will take over.
Although you might not consciously be thinking about it, any time you're keeping yourself upright and stable on a bike you're stimulating motor regions in the central nervous system and activating the cerebral cortex, which helps improve motor learning and balance.
You're also improving your spatial awareness, as you handle your bike while turning a corner, decide where to begin braking and manoeuvre around whatever your adventure throws at you.
While you're biking, though you might not even feel it, you're also engaging your core and your back muscles while holding yourself upright on your bike. Core stability is great for balance, and strong abdominal and back muscles support your spine and increase everyday comfort.
It increases overall fitness and stamina, helps build your cardiovascular systems and works on your core and stability all important features of many sports. The low risk of injury and ability to toggle intensity makes cycling a great cross-training tool for athletes looking to diversity their fitness.
Cycling is a low-impact activity. Cycling doesn't involve the full impact of your body weight hitting the ground a lot of your weight is held up by the bike itself. Unlike running, you aren't bearing your weight, which means the risk of injury is much lower. As long as your bike fits your properly, it is unlikely you will develop an injury from cycling.
The benefits of this form of exercise (and other aerobic activities) are that moderate activity can be taken up by people who otherwise would find it hard to work out.
It Can Be Easy Or Hard
Following this, cycling can require whatever skill level you can give. If you're a beginner, there are plenty of flat trails and roads for you to get accustomed to. Or, if you're fit and healthy, you don't have to go far to find harder cycling routes. Plus, you get to set the intensity - perfect for anything from recovering from surgery to an intense workout.
Lower Body Strength
It’s no shocker that cycling is great for your lower half. Your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves are all activated when you pedal, and by dialling up the resistance on your bike, you can increase the strength challenge on these muscles. According to a 2015 review, cycling can build muscle and strength, though it’s likely not as effective at doing so as resistance training, and may require a longer training period to achieve that.
Cycling “definitely can help with posture,” says Qayed—if you practice good form, which, as we mentioned, means sitting tall with a neutral spine (not arched or rounded) and pulling your shoulders down and back (not hunching them up by your ears). By practising solid posture when cycling, you can help counteract the poor posture many of us fall into with our sedentary work routines.
Better Coordination (and Navigation)
The link between cycling and coordination and even muscle "rhythm" is well-founded. It's no wonder why many sprint classes are set to music and cycling may help to even improve the coordination between antagonist sets of muscles. Plus, whether you choose to use a cycling GPS or not - the repetition of routes and having to map your routes and follow road signs can help to improve an inherent sense of spatial awareness and navigation.
You Might Even Save Money
Not only might you stand to save money from fuel or public transport costs, but cycling could also even be linked with increased wealth in general! Going hand-in-hand with BMI, subsequent weight loss from cycling might be linked with a spike in wealth.
Improve Your Sex Life
Any form of physical activity, including cycling, could also have positive repercussions for your sex life. Cycling has been linked to an improvement in performance (and even bedroom athleticism!) due to better-developed muscles.
Get High (Sort of)
A case of fiction-turned fact, the runner's high doesn't just require you to pound the pavement to get a piece of it. University of Bonn neurologists even found a "direct link between feelings of wellbeing and exercise” induced by this "high".
Better Than Walking?
Not only do bikes allow you to get further faster, but research has shown that if you tallied it up you'd do the equivalent of 2,924 miles to the gallon! Beat that, feet.
Riding a bike is also a good way to get into any form of fitness. You're completely in control of the speed and intensity. Unless you choose a route with extreme hills, you'll be able to choose exactly how hard you want to push yourself, how long you want to bike for and what type of riding would feel best for your body.
Even the shortest bike rides are good for you: Opting to ride your bike to the store or just take a little spin around the block will benefit your health and leave you feeling energised and ready to take on the day.
Social Aspects and Quality of life
Aerobic exercise is fantastic as it can be done alone or in groups. As such, cycling has exploded as a phenomenon with societal benefits. Make combatting physical inactivity work twice as hard for you and improve your quality of life by making the formation of relationships easier due to shared interests, increased endorphins, and relaxing muscles - all of which create a perfect storm for opening up!
Do The Benefits of Cycling Outweigh Any Negatives?
Any potential risk factors associated with cycling are surely won out by the numerous positives. A reduction in health risks, of course, has to be weighed up against potential cycling injuries. However, increasing your physical activity level and the associated health impacts may have far wider-reaching implications for public health versus problems associated, for example, with obesity.
Whatever the levels of cycling you're undertaking, there are no inherent health risks or adverse health effects of exercise. Of course, accidents can occur and so adherence to road laws and precautions should be taken. Suitable clothing should be worn when cycling, and you should always wear a helmet. Lastly, if you have any underlying health conditions, consider talking to a doctor or even considering indoor cycling - perfect for avoiding any problems that may arise from cycling in bad weather.
Biking Saves Lives! Get Started Today
No matter what your fitness level, cycling celebrates the promotion of health both physically and mentally. If you want to reduce the risk of certain diseases and heart attacks down the line whilst reaping the benefits of health gains and improved physical health in the short term - there really is no greater investment than some form of exercise. Turn cycling into something that you love - an activity during leisure time, and you can scale it from moderate exercise to vigorous exercise as suits you.