From improved cardiovascular health to a higher sense of mental well-being, the health benefits of biking are numerous — and if you want to know how this simple, yet effective form of physical activity affects your body and mind as a whole, you came to the right place!
It’s fun, it’s cheap, and it’s good for the environment — what more can you ask for, really?
Continue reading to learn all about the eight amazing benefits of making cycling your exercise of choice!
Benefit #1: Increased Cardiovascular Health
First and foremost, cycling is highly beneficial for your heart, as it strengthens your heart muscles, and helps you reduce the risk of developing a wide range of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure.
It’s no secret that riding a bike gets your heart rate up, which, in turn, gets the blood pumping and burns calories, improving your circulation and limiting your chances of becoming overweight. Moreover, those who participate in physical activities such as cycling show significant improvements in overall cardiovascular function, compared to those leading sedentary lifestyles.
Another thing worth noting here is that making cycling a part of your daily routine could have a positive outcome on your blood pressure, too, lowering it as much as prescription medication would.
I’m not saying you should ditch your medication entirely, but squeezing in some sweaty bike rides might be a good idea — as long as your doctor approves it.
Benefit #2: Improved Muscle Tone
Think about it for a second:
Cycling involves a great deal of pedaling — a repetitive motion that requires constant switching between contracting and expanding large muscle groups. As such, biking can be an excellent isotonic exercise — even more so if you decide to play around with different levels of resistance — and one that strengthens and builds muscles in your lower body, especially your calves, thighs, and glutes.
And while you may think that it only works your lower body, that’s only partially true.
Of course, the muscles in your lower body are the ones that take on most of the work, but never forget that cycling is a total-body workout.
Your arms and core will get pretty decent strength training out of it, especially if its an extreme sport like mountain biking, since these muscles engage in, and help with maintaining balance.
Benefit #3: Lower Risk of Cancer
Adopting a healthy lifestyle — that means maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy, and following it up with regular exercise — plays a vital role in reducing your risk of any number of diseases, including cancer.
Studying the relationship between physical activity and cancer has been the goal of many researchers, and the results so far seem promising:
People who lead overall sedentary lifestyles, but incorporate a moderate to a high level of physical activity, such as cycling as a means of active commuting, have a reduced risk of cancer.
Moreover, approaching middle age and maintaining a higher fitness level may lower the risk of lung, colorectal, as well as prostate cancer, as observed in a study that included nearly 14,000 men, and have a positive impact on survival rates following a diagnosis.
Benefit #4: Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Even if you don’t think that you’re at risk of developing diabetes, don’t skip this part just yet — type 2 diabetes rates continue to increase, to a point where this condition is becoming a serious public health concern.
Since diabetes puts you at a much higher risk for developing conditions such as heart disease, stroke, ocular diseases, kidney disease, as well as skin conditions, to name a few, keeping it under control should be imperative.
And as you’re probably aware, two key factors that help keep type 2 diabetes at bay are a “clean” diet and regular physical activity.
So, yes — you can cycle your way to lower glucose levels.
As a form of physical activity, cycling exhausts the glucose already present in the cells, converting them into energy, which then draws more glucose into the cells, lowering blood glucose levels as a result.
And if that’s not enough for you, remember that it also increases blood flow to your legs, which, for people living with diabetes, is a much-welcome benefit.
Benefit #5: Weight Loss
Okay, this is a fairly obvious benefit of any physical activity, but I figured it’s worth mentioning, nonetheless. After all, one of the main reasons why most people take up any new forms of exercise is because they’re looking to shed a few unwanted pounds.
No matter how much you try to wiggle your way around it, weight loss always comes down to CICO — calories in, calories out. The weight loss equation is pretty simple:
You have to burn more calories than you consume.
And given that it’s a form of cardio exercise that puts large muscle groups in your thighs and buttocks to work — all while maintaining a low-impact status — it’s clear that cycling can be a real calorie burner.
How much, you ask?
Well, the actual numbers depend on a lot of factors, mainly your weight and speed, but you can expect to burn anywhere between 240 to 355 calories by doing 30 minutes of moderate-pace biking.
Benefit #6: Improved Joint Mobility
Another thing you need to know about biking is that it not only works your muscles but your joints, as well.
The pedaling motion affects all the major joints in the lower body — your knees, ankles, and hip joints — causing them to rotate. As a result, these joints become stronger, and you experience a significant increase in their range of motion.
Here’s why cycling is deemed the ideal form of cardio exercise for those suffering from conditions that affect joints in the body, such as arthritis:
Unlike full-blown cardio workouts, such as running or skipping rope, where joints experience a lot of pressure that could lead to injury, riding a bike is considered a low-risk, low-impact exercise that works on strengthening your joints, rather than harming them.
Benefit #7: Improved Mental Well-Being
There are numerous ways in which exercise boosts your mood — from the release of hormones such as endorphins and adrenalin to the improvement in confidence levels — which is true for participating in any sports.
After all, studies have shown that leading a physically active lifestyle results in an increased sense of mental well-being, compared to inactive individuals.
However, with cycling, there’s the additional benefit of combining physical activity with spending time outside, enjoying and exploring beautiful scenery, be it solo or with a group of friends.
Whether your goal is to keep your mental health in check, reduce stress, boost your energy levels, or merely have some fun while also working on your physical health, biking is one of the best ways to do it.
Benefit #8: Improved Sleep Quality
Tiring yourself out through physical activity will help you sleep better — we’ve all experienced that at least once in our life. That’s not rocket science, that’s common sense. However, now, we have actual research to back it up:
After collecting data for the past 35 years in a study that observed both men and women aged 20 to 85, researchers at the University of Georgia found a correlation between the drop in fitness and resulting sleep problems.
So, there’s a reason why people experience a sudden decline in sleep duration and overall sleep quality as they reach the age between 40 and 60 — and all the evidence is pointing towards the drop in physical activity that many people report at that age.
Can the solution to your sleep-related problems be as simple as getting back on the bike?
It seems so!
If you’re struggling with getting some much-needed rest, it might be worth giving a shot.
Cycling Your Way to Better Health: Final Thoughts
Here’s the best part about biking, though:
It doesn’t require you to change your entire daily routine to squeeze in some exercise!
Finding time to ride a bike isn’t that difficult, at all — if you make it your primary means of transportation, you’ll reap all the health benefits of biking without even trying!
And if the health benefits mentioned above aren’t a reason enough to wipe the dust off of your old one (or maybe invest in a new bike), I don’t know what is.
Lastly, always remember to wear a helmet! All these benefits don’t mean anything if you end up injuring yourself!