Here it is – chapter and verse covering the sport you adore. You already know that cycling makes you feel good. Sometimes euphoric. Sometimes frustrated. But you strive to reach a bliss that can only be realized during a ride in the environment that pleases you most.
Cycling delivers fabulous physical benefits, and mental health benefits are as stellar. If you don’t learn something new about the activity you prefer after reading this, we recommend reading it a second time.
Let’s get started!
Physical health benefits of cycling
1. Weight loss and management
According to the UK website Weight Loss Resources, getting your butt on a bike and pedaling at a comfortable speed can help you burn between 75 and 670 extra calories during a half-hour-long ride. Cycling Weekly says calorie burning is more likely to be 400 and 1000 an hour.
Your current weight, the amount of exertion you expend, and your dedication to making this a regular practice will determine which end of that calorie-burning range you achieve. A great way to begin your weight loss journey is by setting goals, and the folks at this website are delighted to help you do that.
Related: Bicycles for Heavy Riders
2. Improves heart health
While the figure isn’t new, we were fascinated to find this statistic from the BikeBiz report entitled “Bikes not Fumes,” published in 1992. The report concluded, “If one-third of all short car journeys were made by bike, national heart disease rates would fall by between 5- and 10 percent.”
Dr. Jeremy Sims, MD, supports this statement and adds, “Reducing your weight by 10 percent can decrease your risk of developing heart disease by improving how your heart works, reducing your blood pressure, and reducing the levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides”.
3. Builds muscles
The Bill Bone Bike Law firm focuses its practice on sports injury. Thus, all of the firm’s attorneys know plenty about muscle building. In their stated opinion, every muscle in the body benefits from cycling, including the most obvious ones: Soleus and gastrocnemius; Hamstrings and quadriceps; Gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus; Biceps, and triceps; Deltoids; Plantar flexors, and dorsiflexion.
Even shifting positions on your bike delivers muscle boosts, they say, so “Whether standing, leaning forward, or ducking on trail rides…these shifts in body movements place pressure on the upper body and help to tone and strengthen the region.”
4. Increases lung capacity
According to Bicycling.com columnist Selene Yeager, oxygen-rich air is drawn in every time you take a breath, and carbon dioxide waste is expelled. Start pedaling; this exchange impacts your heart and muscles because you use more lung space. As your heart rate increases, abs “spring into action” as your lungs pull in more air, but not all is pristine.
By inhaling what Yeager calls “gunk,” the body calls up mucus reserves to help rid the lungs of junk, and as this happens, lung capacity increases. In fact, a Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology study concluded that 12 weeks of high-intensity interval training could improve your lung capacity even more.
5. Decreases cancer risk
Research conducted by the University of Glasgow and published in the British Medical Journal “found that compared to “a non-active commute,” riding a bike to work is associated with a 45 percent lower risk of cancer and a 46 percent lower risk of heart disease.” That was no wimpy study.
More than 264,000 people were tracked for five years, and the results were so stunning that the cycling community took an interest in these findings. “Walking to work was associated with a lower risk of heart disease, but unlike cycling, [walking] is not associated with a significantly lower risk of cancer or overall death,” said researcher Carlos Celis-Morales. There you have it. Forget walking and ride your bike instead!
6. Delivers a low-impact workout
Health.com editors want you to know that cycling is an excellent low-impact exercise form because you can “work up a sweat without stressing your joints” (). You enjoy the benefits of an invigorating outdoor sport “without feeling like you’re working that hard.”
If your joints appreciate a low-impact ride, being confined to an exercise bike sounds awful because you’re confined inside; here’s a justification for taking a pass on a recumbent bike: When trained cyclists took two 40-kilometer rides (one indoor; one outdoor) “at the same perceived exertion,” the outdoor riders produced 25-percent more power than their indoor comrades. Want more power? Get outside.
7. Strengthens your immune system
You probably don’t subscribe to the journal “Aging Cell,” but for those who do, a few surprises await for those who believe that nothing strengthens the human immune system like a consistent cycling regimen. The Guardian noted that cycling has the potential to rejuvenate the immune system, citing the experiences of 125 amateur cyclists between ages 55 and 79 who were compared with healthy individuals of the same age set.
Professor Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Aging at the University of Birmingham, discovered that while the thymus (the organ producing T-cells) usually starts shrinking at age 20, “the thymuses of older cyclists were found to be generating as many T-cells as those of young people.”
8. Increases life expectancy
In addition to benefiting the immune system, cycling can help increase life expectancy. Brogan Driscoll, writing for the UK edition of the Huffington Post, followed that thread and found data likely to impress you and your biking mates:
Read more: Best Electric Bikes for Seniors
- For every hour you cycle, you get an hour more of living, say the University of Utrecht researchers
- Dutch cyclists live six months longer than non-bikers, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)
- According to the International Journal of Sports Medicine, Tour de France competitors may live up to 8 years longer than average.
Mental health benefits of cycling
9. Improves mental health and well-being
Can you ask your therapist for a prescription for a bicycle rather than a pharmaceutical? You can try it. MensLineAustralia.com reports that cycling is “particularly useful for positive mental health [because] the rhythmic, aerobic and low impact nature of cycling, much like other motor skills, has known brain-boosting benefits”.
Included on that list of perks are mood improvement and the release of healthy doses of endorphins like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin that kick in a while riding. For many, self-esteem increases while anxiety and stress decrease. Can anything be more mentally uplifting than achieving a cycling high? We don’t think so!
10. Boosts your brain power
Suppose you’ve grown weary of searching for memories or things. In that case, you could use a boost in the creativity department, or if you’re just interested in enhancing the power of your mind; you’ve already got the right tool in your possession to achieve these goals. Grab your wheels, and creativity has been known to kick into overdrive once your mind relaxes. The brain can stabilize itself so ideas, solutions, and intellectual performance skyrocket.
The aforementioned MensLine post notes, “Cycling can grow your brain in the same way it can grow your muscles. Blood flow increases just as it does with the muscles, bringing in more oxygen and nutrients that improve its performance. Riding increases the production of proteins used for creating new brain cells by two or three times the norm! It also increases the activities that allow different brain regions to communicate more effectively.”
11. Lowers risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
The National Institutes of Health’s Library of Medicine published a Brain Conductivity study that concluded that “forced-rate lower-extremity exercise has recently emerged as a potential safe and low-cost therapy for Parkinson’s disease (PD). The efficacy is believed to depend on the pedaling rate, with rates above the subjects’ voluntary exercise rates being most beneficial.”
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tools to measure study participants’ progress, researchers found “a strong positive correlation” between pedaling rate and improvements seen in study participants. Ditto positive studies on the relationship between bicycling and dementia. Perhaps the most compelling commentary comes from this blog post – “When I cycle, I push dementia away“.
12. Serves as an anti-depressant
When world-renowned cyclist Marco Pantani committed suicide nearly 20 years ago, depressive illnesses in athletes rarely made headlines. Pantani left a note that read, “I’m all alone.” That from a competitor whose fall from grace and ultimate death might have been prevented had he been the beneficiary of an intervention, anti-depressant drugs, or psychiatric treatments.
Can cycling alone put an end to depression? It’s unlikely, say experts, but in concert with a proper drug regimen and counseling, cycling benefits include the aforementioned bursts of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin that, with professional help, deliver a more complete therapeutic program than relying only on drugs or counseling.
13. Helps manage stress
You won’t find a more enthusiastic proponent of bike riding than Matthew Barbour, whose BikeRadar.com post on using a bike to beat stress is delightfully short and to the point. He believes “your two-wheeled habit can be as good for your mental health as it is for your body.” Barbour quotes Neil Shah of the Stress Management Society to prove his point: “Cycling is one of the most effective treatments for stress and in many cases has been proven to be as effective as medication – if not more so.”
Shah says that more doctors are prescribing biking to combat stress. He adds, “Riding a bike is ideal because it’s so accessible and achievable – and the mountain of scientific evidence pointing towards its stress-busting properties is growing by the day.” Convinced? You should be.
14. You can eat more
It’s pretty hard to ignore an online article entitled “Cyclists Eat Too Much!” But professional trainer Chris Carmichael has lots to say on the topic. Can you increase your calorie intake if you use bicycling to get you from couch potato to active?
You can. But according to Carmichael, “People get into trouble when they forget that they started training with roughly 1600 calories (400 grams) of stored carbohydrate in their muscles. When cyclists see 600 Kj/hr on a power meter display, they mistakenly think they need to replenish fuel the same way they replenish fluid.”
Not necessarily, he says. “Try an experiment: eat less but drink the same amount or more than you do now on the bike. When I’ve done this with athletes at training camps, as long as hydration and electrolyte levels stayed elevated, I’ve rarely seen any drop in power output when athletes consumed as much as half as many calories as they were consuming before.” It can’t hurt to try this and see how it works for you.
15. Get better sleep
Suppose you’re a card-carrying member of our sleep-deprived society. In that case, you’ll be delighted to learn that by developing a regular cycling schedule, you can also improve the length and quality of your sleep. Regular riding synchronizes circadian rhythms that have been proven to help reduce the stress hormones that are often the culprits behind lousy sleeping patterns.
A healthy dose of riding doesn’t mean you won’t snooze if you don’t spend hours on the bike. Just 30 to 60 minutes of pedaling at a decent pace (you make that decision as you increase your time on the bike) from three to five days a week should lead to better sleep, and you are likely to enjoy more restorative sleep and who among us can’t benefit from high-quality slumber?
Social benefits of cycling
16. Improve your sex life
We’re spreading the good news that sex and cycling are a sublime match. “In men, regular exercise appears to be a natural Viagra: It’s associated with a lower risk of erectile problems. Research on women found that those who are physically active report greater sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction than women who are sedentary.”
Just 20 minutes of intense cycling pushed female subjects’ sexual arousal buttons into the stratosphere as more blood was directed to lady parts that set up a chain reaction leading to heightened desire. Harvard University experts agree: “20 minutes of cycling boosted women’s sexual arousal by 169-percent.
17. Grow your social circle
Cyclist Andy Levine says that from the moment he took up cycling, he saw myriad aspects of his life improve. One of the biggest boons was an enhanced social life born of hanging out with like-minded people who had never met a bike they couldn’t fall in love with. Interviewed by the folks at NutritiousLife.com, Levine enthuses, “Cycling is a lifestyle, and the sense of community among cyclists is incredibly strong.
Related article: Our favorite tandem bikes
My social life revolves around cycling”. “It’s also a great common ground for networking,” he adds. Asked to summarize his passion for cycling as a social connection, he says, “The simplest way to explain it is that biking brings people together.” You probably agree.
18. Ride with your partner
In the category of “making and breaking relationships,” a shared interest in cycling can create a strong bond for many reasons (though if your relationship is rocky, your bike can’t perform miracles). Website writer Adam Marsal tells WeLoveCycling.com readers that “Regular cycling raises the presence of natural happiness hormones in the blood, which make cyclists content with their life and, subsequently, with their relationships.
Moreover, regular cycling increases sexual libido, meaning there’s no ultimate need to search beyond your relationship, especially after long afternoon rides.” But you already knew that, right?
19. Cycle with your kids
Whether you are new to the saddle or you’ve just discovered the joy of riding, you may be considering cycling with your kids. Your instincts are right on, savvy parent. Create a shared experience, and both of you benefit, but kids benefit most, say Sustrans.com researchers.
Related: Best bikes for teens
According to this nonprofit group, starting kids young can up the bonds created between parents and kids and set a good example of the importance of physical activity. Kids who ride with parents gain the confidence they need to grow into healthy adults, and the ecological benefits you and your kids receive are priceless. A wondrous world awaits your children, one best explored when you ride together.
Economic benefits of cycling
20. Save time on short commutes
For short commutes, bikes are the hands-down favorite of folks who are delighted to leave home a few minutes earlier to get to work or social engagements without the hassles of gassing up, parking fees, wear and tear on an automobile, insurance, and traffic.
A recent study found that bikers “were the only commuters who genuinely enjoyed their commute, regardless of length.” In fact, 19 percent of bike commuters described their ride to work as “their most delightful daily activity,” says Lauren Barret, writing for MoneyUnder30.com. “Only 2 percent of drivers could say the same,” she added.
21. Bikes cost less than cars
You can count on the American Association of Retired People (AARP) to put the interests of members front and center on all matters. When it comes to recommending bikes over cars, AARP columnist Jeff Yeager has proven that it’s possible to “pedal your way to more spending power” if your lifestyle is conducive to biking over driving.
Citing American Automobile Association statistics, Yeager writes, “the average cost for an American driver to own and operate a car was about $8,558 in 2016. In comparison, some estimates put the average cost of owning and operating a bicycle at $350 a year”. That means you could own a fleet of bikes, maintain them all and still have plenty of money left over for a daily Starbucks stop.
22. No gas money and cheaper maintenance
Suppose you hesitate to open your monthly credit card statement because you know that many of the charges are for gas fill-ups, routine maintenance, and repairs. Wouldn’t you rather bike to work and kiss car-related expenses goodbye? If you’re practical and can think of a million reasons to make the trade, perhaps you need a dollar-and-cents comparison to convince you of its merits.
Visit the Car vs. Bike Calculator website and, “in just a few seconds, you can determine the effect cycling would have on your life – and convert the hours spent on a bike into trees or additional hours of life.” Potential savings might astonish you.
23. No parking spaces are required
Consider the New York City neighborhood empowerment effort that addresses the issue of secure parking for cyclists. City planners launched a robust effort to increase the number of bicycle racks, and bike corrals, and cities like Chicago followed suit. The Windy City “just installed 427 bike racks in one month.
Another 4,000 racks and 200 on-street bike corrals [are slated to be added] by 2021, proving that where there’s political will, there’s a way”. These efforts are a direct result of public pressure. Why not add your voice to this important topic?
24. No insurance coverage is needed
The State Farm Insurance Company has a vested interest in helping their policyholders ride bikes over driving cars, even though it means that the company generates lower revenues because bikers don’t need insurance to indemnify their bikes from a long list of potential hazards. As a result of this concern, the State Farm offers dedicated pages to cyclists that relate to all aspects of bike riding that run the gamut, from keeping kids on bikes safe to providing tips to commuters.
Take a good look at your next premium notice. Imagine what you could do with that money. And if you do need a car on occasion, rent one and get coverage for the time you need four wheels rather than two!
25. Spend less money on healthcare
According to financial guru Leon Kaye, health coverage costs can be profoundly impacted if employees ride bikes to work. Kaye points to a seminal study by Dr. Thomas Gotschi that substantiates savings in health care costs at between “$138 to $605 million by 2040.”
Those savings, adds Gotschi, can result in healthcare cost savings of from $388 to $594 million annually. Dr. Gotschi’s research reveals that just half an hour of bicycling daily can result in health care savings of $544 per person, per year — not an insignificant amount in an era of rising premiums.
26. Reduce your carbon footprint
You don’t have to picket nuclear reactor sites or lobby Congress to show your passion for Mother Earth. Whenever you choose your bike over your car, you join a universe of like-minded people who strive to reduce their daily carbon footprints.
“If you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint, reducing or eliminating your automobile travel is a great way to do it, and research proves that it does have an effect,” say folks compiling statistics for OurStreetsMPLS.com. This nonprofit organization is devoted to all aspects of the environment. CO2 release per kilometer from cars is 271g, while the CO2 release from bike riders is 16g – and that number only exists because riders eat!
Read more: How to Remove Speed Limiter on Electric Bike
27. Help reduce fossil fuels
The city of Berkeley, California, adopted a “take no prisoners” resolution calling for an 80-percent reduction in fossil fuels as a direct result of the dramatic increase in climate-related catastrophes in 2019.
The Council issued a declaration ( PDF ) based on escalating temperatures, and while this is still a work in progress, the city is striving to become 100 percent fossil-free by 2030. This initiative aims to “Build all high-priority projects in the city’s bicycle, pedestrian, and BeST plans, including tier 1 projects in the bike plan by 2025.” What measures is your city taking to emulate this type of effort?
28. Contribute to noise reduction efforts
According to the European Cyclists’ Federation, the Coronavirus lockdown short-circuited traffic noise so much, “new soundscapes” arose. Eulalia Peris, an EEA environmental noise expert, collected data that includes these esoteric notes: “Soundscapes have given way to new melodies: birdsongs, people talking, etc.”
People report that “birds are louder.” By removing a “habitual layer of urban noise, mainly produced by transportation sources, even seismologists … hear the earth better” (). It shouldn’t take a pandemic to awaken the world to this phenomenon, but who better to turn the sound pollution dial down than people choosing bikes over cars?
29. Can biking reduce smog?
While there is no direct relationship between smog reduction and riding bikes, says CityMetric.com analyst Laura Hancox, once combustion engines go the way of the Dodo bird, expect improved air. Consequently, cyclists should take every precaution available when atmospheric conditions like smog are present. Hancox salutes cyclists who resemble Darth Vader because that means they’re proactive about protecting themselves when they ride.
Recommending proper protection masks “that cover[s] a significant part of the cyclist’s face,” Hancox also suggests investigating other ways to stay safe. Find alternate commute routes that aren’t as heavily trafficked, check air quality forecasts before you go out, and slow down your pace to reduce exertion that forces your lungs to process polluted air.
30. Bikes take up less space than cars
To prove that point, CityMetric staffers took a close look at efforts around the globe to call attention to how much space automobiles hog, especially when compared to bikes. Check out this “arrogance of space” diagram. It shows you, in graph form, how the city of Paris allocates street space and drives home the need to devote more space to bike parking.
The movement toward fewer cars and more bikes is growing stronger. One study in Latvia concluded that “a single parking space … could store 10 to 15 bikes.” Imagine the number of bikes that could find homes if automobile parking lots designated a portion of their facilities to bike-only spaces.
31. Bikes lower the rate of animal roadkills
Ben Goldfarb, writing for The Atlantic magazine, concluded that pandemic lockdowns “could be the biggest conservation action in a century”. All manner of wildlife are benefiting from less car traffic. “
Roadkill’s decline is so significant precisely because its impacts are ordinarily so catastrophic,” Goldfarb notes, citing a recent study that concluded that “cars crush about 200 million birds and 30 million mammals in Europe every year; in the United States, the toll has been estimated, albeit imprecisely, at more than 1 million each day.” You don’t have to love squirrels to be averse to running them down.
Covid and social distancing
32. Is it safe to ride outside?
If it feels like the Covid-19 pandemic highjacked your life, you’ll be glad to know that anyone intent upon keeping up with their cycling activities can do so, say folks at the California Bicycle Coalition (CBC).
That stated you’ve still got to take safety measures if there’s a chance you will encounter people. The CBC recommends wearing proper athletic face math that wicks moisture to keep you comfortable, and if masks don’t work for you, substitute a bandana or scarf that covers your nose and mouth.
33. Must I wear a mask while riding my bike?
While masks don’t offer guarantees regarding asymptomatic spread, you show the world that you care about the people you encounter on your group rides if you wear one. If you ride solo, the mask is not needed in most cases ( depending on your state’s current mandatory mask situation).
Need recommendations for the types of masks that best suit athletes? Turn to Rolling Stone for the publication’s inciteful article on fit, face, and facts.
34. Are group rides safe?
The safest way to ride is solo. But you will take a risk if you want to bike with your posse without wearing face masks. That said, the infection rate within the area of the country you call home should be a determining factor when you debate this topic. For a more nuanced conversation about this, check this article. For a legal take on the topic, these BikeLaw.com tips can help you decide, too.
35. How about public bike shares (e.g., Citibike)?
Once again, we turned to Bicycling.com for their take on public bike shares like CitiBike and learned that it is possible for ill people to leave their infection on handlebars and other frame areas, but “If you go over surfaces with antibacterial wipes, that should protect you against being exposed.”
Here’s good news: a recently published study proves that surfaces exposed to sunlight for between 11 and 34 minutes can eradicate 90-percent of pathogens left on surfaces. But unless you intend to watch a bike in the sun for 34 minutes before you rent it, wipe it down with sanitizer, don’t touch your face until you’ve washed your hands, and wearing gloves when you ride is a great idea, too.
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