To be fit and healthy you need to be physically active. Regular physical activity can help protect you from serious diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, diabetes and arthritis. Riding your bicycle regularly is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Cycling is a healthy, low-impact exercise that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, from young children to older adults. It is also fun, cheap and good for the environment.
Riding to work or the shops is one of the most time-efficient ways to combine regular exercise with your everyday routine. An estimated one billion people ride bicycles every day – for transport, recreation and sport.
The benefits of cycling are almost as endless as the country lanes you could soon be exploring. If you’re considering taking up cycling, and weighing it up against other potential activities, then we’re here to tell you that cycling is hands down the best option.
- increased cardiovascular fitness.
- increased muscle strength and flexibility.
- improved joint mobility.
- decreased stress levels.
- improved posture and coordination.
- strengthened bones.
- decreased body fat levels.
- prevention or management of disease.
1.CYCLING IMPROVES MENTAL WELL-BEING
There are so many ways that exercise can boost your mood: there’s the basic release of adrenalin and endorphins, and the improved confidence that comes from achieving new things (such as completing a sportive or getting closer to that goal).
Cycling combines physical exercise with being outdoors and exploring new views. You can ride solo – giving you time to process worries or concerns, or you can ride with a group which broadens your social circle.
Former Hour Record holder Grahame Obree has suffered from depression through much of his life, and told us: “Getting out and riding will help [people suffering with depression]… Without cycling, I don’t know where I would be.”
2. STRENGTHEN YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM BY CYCLING
This one is particularly relevant during the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“People can knock down sick days by about 40 percent by exercising aerobically on most days of the week while at the same time receiving many other exercise-related health benefits.”
Professor Tim Noakes, of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, also tells us that mild exercise can improve our immune system by increasing production of essential proteins and waking up lazy white blood cells.Why choose the bike? Cycling to work can reduce the time of your commute, and free you from the confines of germ infused buses and trains.
There is a but. Evidence suggests that immediately after intense exercise, such as an interval training session, your immune system is lowered – but adequate recovery such as eating and sleeping well can help to reverse this.
3. CYCLING PROMOTES WEIGHT LOSS
The simple equation, when it comes to weight loss, is ‘calories out must exceed calories in’. So you need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Cycling burns calories: between 400 and 1000 an hour, depending on intensity and rider weight.
Of course, there are other factors: the make-up of the calories you consume affects the frequency of your refuelling, as does the quality of your sleep and of course the amount of time you spend burning calories will be influenced by how much you enjoy your chosen activity.Assuming you enjoy cycling, you’ll be burning calories. And if you eat well, you should lose weight.
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4. CYCLING BUILDS MUSCLE
The resistance element of cycling means that it doesn’t just burn fat: it also builds muscle – particularly around the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Muscle is leaner than fat, and people with a higher percentage of muscle burn more calories even when sedentary.
To be clear – you won’t end up with quads like a track sprinter unless you invest a serious amount of time at the squat rack. But you will develop a nice toned derriere.
5. YOU CAN ENJOY SECOND BREAKFASTS AFTER CYCLING
If you decide to cycle to work, you’ve got a great excuse to add a couple of guilt free snacks to your day.
Since a half hour ride to work should be burning between 200 and 500 calories, you’ve got a license to enjoy a smug second breakfast at your desk.If you’re serious about burning fat, you could do your morning ride fasted (sans breakfast) – but that’s mainly a habit reserved for the most dedicated of nutters.
6. CYCLISTS HAVE BETTER LUNG HEALTH
You won’t be alone if this point seems contradictory to common sense. But a recent study suggests that people who ride a bike are actually exposed to fewer dangerous fumes than those who travel by car.
A study by the Healthy Air Campaign, Kings College London, and Camden Council, saw air pollution detectors fitted to a driver, a bus user, a pedestrian and a cyclist using a busy route through central London.
The results showed that the driver experienced five times higher pollution levels than the cyclist, as well as three and a half more than the walker and two and a half times more than the bus user. Long story short: the cyclist won.
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7. CYCLING CUTS HEART DISEASE AND CANCER RISK
Cycling raises your heart rate and gets the blood pumping round your body, and it burns calories, limiting the chance of your being overweight. As a result, it’s among a selection of forms of exercise recommended by the NHS as being healthy ways to cut your risk of developing major illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
New evidence was presented in the form of a study conducted by the University of Glasgow, earlier this year. Researchers studied over 260,000 individuals over the course of five years – and found that cycling to work can cut a riders risk of developing heart disease or cancer in half. The full study can be read here.
8. CYCLING IS LOW IMPACT
Many of the upshots we discuss when we talk about the benefits of cycling are exercise related. Reckon it might be easier to just go for a run?Running is weight bearing – and therefore injury rates are higher. Cycling, by contrast to running, is not weight bearing.
When scientists compared groups of exercisers – long distance runners and cyclists, they found the runners suffered 133-144 per cent more muscle damage, 256 per cent more, inflammation and DOMS 87 per cent higher.
9.CYCLING SAVES TIME
Compare these three experiences:
- Get in the car, sit in traffic, queue to get into the car park, park, pay to park, arrive
- Walk to bus stop, wait for bus, complain about bus being late, get on bus (pay), watch as it takes you round-the-houses, arrive, about half a mile from your destination
- Get on the bike, filter past traffic, lock the bike, arrive
Short journeys contribute massively to global pollution levels, and often involve a fair amount of stationary staring at the bumper in front. Get on the bike, and you’ll save on petrol or cash on public transport, as well as time.
10. CYCLING IMPROVES NAVIGATIONAL SKILLS
In the world of car sat navs and Google maps, sometimes there’s just not that much incentive to sharpen your natural sense of direction (however superior or otherwise it may be).
Unless you’ve invested in a GPS cycling computer with mapping capabilities such as a Garmin 1000, then getting out and exploring the lanes can provide essential exercise for your internal mapping capabilities, giving you (with practice) a better idea of which way is West.
Things to remember
- Cycling can help to protect you from serious diseases such as stroke, heart attack, some cancers, depression, diabetes, obesity and arthritis.
- Riding a bike is healthy, fun and a low-impact form of exercise for all ages.
- Cycling is easy to fit into your daily routine by riding to the shops, park, school or work
Cycling is an incredibly sociable sport. Grassroots cycling revolves around cycling club culture – which in turn revolves around the Saturday or Sunday club run: several hours of riding at an intensity that enables easy chat, interrupted only by a cafe stop (or the occasional puncture).
Joining a cycling club or group is an excellent way to grow your social circle, and if you’re new to riding – you’ll probably find all the maintenance and training advice you may have been looking for there, too.
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