Exercise needs to be part of everyone’s day to day life. We spend more than 40 hours per week at a desk, in front of the screen, and then we rest in the same way – sitting down, in front of a screen. When going out, most of us still sit down at a bar or a café, with something sweet or alcoholic in front of us. We play video games, we watch movies, all we do is sit, sit, sit. For these reasons, and many others, we need to get as much exercise in as possible. So, why not give cycling a try?
Bicycling has many proven, scientifically backed benefits. It will improve your body in every possible way, help you distress, and may even help you get a friend or two. Below you can find a comprehensive list of the benefits of cycling.
1. Boosts Your Mood
Let’s start with one that is rarely talked about – your head. Many studies have shown that physically active people are happier than those that don’t work out. And even without studies, it makes sense. Just remember how you feel during, and after, a workout. You get this burst of adrenaline and endorphins during rigorous physical activity. And after you’re done, you feel relaxation you rarely feel as a result from other activities.
Furthermore, you become more confident not only because you will simply look better after regular exercise, but also because you accomplished something difficult. You achieved a goal, perhaps you won a race, or simply biked a much larger distance.
Another interesting benefit that directly influences your mood and mental health are friends. And cycling is famous for its communal spirit. You can always find a cycling group, no matter where you are.
2. Helps With Weight Loss
The secret to losing weight is rather simple (but not easy). It’s all about calories in, calories out. You are supposed to spend more calories than you actually consume, and in doing so, you will lose weight. Now, whether you’re going to lose muscle mass or fat hinges solely on your diet, but that is another matter for another article. The point here is that cycling is perfect in helping you lose some weight.
So, depending on the intensity, you can expect to lose anything between 400 to 1000 calories during an hour-long ride. This means that a moderately intense one hour ride will help you shed pounds in no time. Furthermore, you can use the convenience of bicycles to your advantage even more. Even if you don’t have time to ride every day, a half hour commute to and from your workplace every day certainly adds up. A thing as simple as keeping everything the same, your diet, your lifestyle, just replacing the bus or your car with cycling can make a world of difference.
3. Boosts Your Immune System
Regular aerobic activity, especially cycling, does wonders for your lungs (more on that below). To be more precise, it strengthens your upper respiratory system. This reduces the chance of getting the common cold severely. In general, you can expect fewer sick days once you do regular exercise.
Furthermore, one study has shown that exercise will strengthen our immune system by “waking up” white blood cells, and by creating essential proteins. These proteins (the main one being called endogenous pyrogen) will increase the temperature of your body, increasing the chance of destroying viruses and bacteria.
Another, somewhat roundabout, benefit to your immune system is that you can travel to work by bicycle. This means that you won’t come into contact with germs and bacteria in buses nearly as often as you did.
Now, you may have heard that your immune system is lowered after an intense training session. This is true. You did, after all, overwork and straining your body. However, this will then lead to your body becoming stronger after you rest, sleep, and eat well. So on a daily basis, yes, you may get sicker faster after a 30-mile race. However, a week from then you will become stronger than ever.
4. Is Easy on Your Joints
What makes cycling a unique aerobic exercise is the fact that it’s very easy on your joints (your ankles specifically). Running, for example, is great for you too. However, when you run, you have the full weight of your body pressed on your ankles with every step. Cycling puts minimal pressure on your joints, at least when compared to running.
With cycling you get a lower risk of injury and inflammation to your joints, which means you can ride more often than you could run, for example.
5. Improves Your Sleep Quality
Cycling can do wonders for your sleep. Now there have been several studies that have shown that cycling improves your sleep quality. Now, this may come about from several reasons. The main one is simply that you feel better. You have less stress in your life, or at least you handle it better. You have a healthy outlet for said stress that also tuckers you out and basically makes it easier to fall asleep.
The other reason is that you are simply healthier. Weight gain, for example, affects your sleep quality. You will also most likely have a healthier diet that follows regular exercise (trust us, you will crave healthy foods), and perhaps a fixed routine as well. Regular exercise means you have a regular routine which you need in order to stick to your cycling schedule. This also means you will get up at the same time every day, and in turn, go to bed at the same time.
6. Reduces Stress
One of the many positive effects of cycling is that it also reduces stress. Stress, as we all know, influences almost every part of our body. It increase cancer risk, heart issues, it makes us grow old faster, has a negative impact on our sleep… However, regular cycling can help you mitigate this, in three general ways.
First of all, you will get regular exercise. Regular exercise will, as we’ve already mentioned, do wonders for your health and for your mood. It will also help make the remainder of your life much easier. Second, it’s the perfect way to let out some steam. Cycling can help you clear your head, and assist you in focusing on the things that matter.
Third, you will lose the stress you get from a regular commute. In fact, you will get a boost that will follow you the entire workday from your riding as well. And in case you’re scared about not being as fresh as you can be after your commute is ended, we suggest you always carry an extra shirt or two. You should also check out some bicycle ride clothing at a specialized company, like Bicycles Online for example. Besides getting the right equipment for your bicycle, like tires, and helmets, you can find some clothing that keeps you cool, while still providing appropriate warmth.
7. Helps You Build Muscle
While cycling is predominantly an aerobic (cardio-based) activity, you should understand that it also has some anaerobic (elements of resistance training) elements. These latter elements help you build muscle. You can expect to get some mass in your glutes, quads, calves and hamstrings. Basically, your legs will get bigger and more muscular.
Now, understand that if you really want to gain a lot of muscle on your legs, you need to do squats. Still, the higher the speed and intensity of which you ride, the greater the chances of getting those tree trunk legs you want.
8. Helps Your Heart and Lungs
Cycling will increase your heart rate, leading to blood flowing around your body faster. This will then lead to a stronger, healthier heart and general circulatory system. It will also help you manage your weight, since having a couple of pounds more than you need leads to an increased heart disease risk.
Cycling increases lung capacity, strengthens your upper respiratory system, and makes you feel a lot less fatigued during daily life. Furthermore, and this may sound a bit contradictory, cyclists are exposed to less air pollution than people in cars. A study done by King’s College London and the Camden Council has shown that drivers experience five times more pollution than a cyclist would. Even walkers and bus users get more pollution in their lungs compared to a cyclist.
And there you have it folks, the benefits of cycling. Instead of driving your car every day to work, or taking the bus, why not go by bike? You will strengthen your heart and your lungs, all the while being exposed to less pollution. Losing weight is the norm when riding regularly, as is better sleep and reduced stress levels. It’s much easier on your joints than running, and will do wonders for your immune system in the long run. And finally, it’s just so much fun – it’s the perfect group activity that can help you make a lot of new friends.