There are more than one billion bicycles around the world – it is arguably one of the most popular sport activities in the world. One of the most efficient means of short-term transportation, the bicycle has been around since the 19th century.
Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity, which means that your heart, blood vessels and lungs all get a workout. You will breathe deeper, perspire and experience increased body temperature, which will improve your overall fitness level.
The benefits of cycling are many and can benefit all who get into the activity.
1. Increased cardiovascular fitness
One of the most obvious benefits of cycling is the benefit to your heart. Cycling is a good way to help prevent things like stroke, heart attack, and high blood pressure. It stimulates your heart, lungs and circulation, reducing the risk of problems with these aspects of the body. Exercise helps to make the organs of the body work better.
Research shows that cycling 20 miles per week on a regular basis, reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by 50 percent. Regularly riding to work is said to improve heart functioning by up to 7 percent.
Cycling strengthens muscles. Your heart is a muscle. It lowers your heart rate and reduces the level of fat in the blood. Studies show that people who bike to work, have better lung function than those who do not. Having a healthy heart and healthy lungs is a major benefit that cycling can give you.
2. Increased muscle strength and flexibility
Cycling helps increase your muscle strength and increases your overall flexibility. Aside from the obvious leg muscles used in cycling, you will also use your core muscles, to control the bike through turns and other maneuvers. Muscles in your arms are used to maintain your balance and hold on during your ride.
Cycling will firm up your midsection as you hold your body in a firm position as you pedal. Abdominal muscles will be strengthened and firmed up as well as shoulders and arms.As with any exercise, using these muscles as you ride will increase their flexibility and strength over time. It is important to have a steady schedule of cycling to maintain the use of your muscles. You can start out slower, and for shorter durations, but as your muscles strengthen, you can increase the time and intensity of your cycling.
3. Improved joint mobility
Cycling is a good way to improve joint mobility. It improves the transporting of energy to the cartilages and reduces the chances of developing arthrosis. It gives the joints a good workout, while not putting much pressure on them or exposing joints to high impact.
Cycling can keep your joints flexible and allow them to move easier. The increased mobility will help with everyday activities like walking and climbing stairs. Regular cycling will keep your joints functioning the way they are supposed to.
4. Decreases stress levels
Any form of exercise will help decrease your overall level of stress. Cycling has been shown to be effective in stress reduction, and sometimes is more effective than medication. Exercise, like cycling is prescribed by many doctors for patients with anxiety and high stress levels.
Experiments have shown that endorphins are higher in the brains of people after a session of exercising. The brain shows more opiate binding of the happy hormone after periods of exercise.
Feelings of wellbeing are closely associated with endurance exercising. Cycling is known to give almost the same high experienced by distance runners. The advantage is that cycling is low impact and more enjoyable.
5. Reduce body fat and excess weight
One of the primary benefits of cycling is that it will help you reduce more of the fat in your body while you build muscle. Weight control is a constant concern for many people. Riding your bike to and from work or school, will increase your metabolism, and help you slim down.
Cycling gives a complete body workout, allowing you to burn fat from all areas of your body. It is a form of cardiovascular exercise, which means that as long as you ride fast enough and long enough, you can get your heart rate up to a level that will help you burn fat and lose weight. Riding uphill is a good way to increase the level of your workout.
You can burn close to 650 calories by riding for one hour at a moderate pace. Going at a faster pace will result in burning even more calories. Cycling also burns belly fat. It burns fat from anywhere on your body if you do it regularly. If you burn 500 more calories than you take in each day, you can lose one pound each week. Keep in mind that you will be building muscle, which is heavier than fat. However, muscles burn more calories than fat.
6. Helps reduce depression
Cycling is a great way to reduce depression. When you are outside, riding through your neighborhood, you feel more alive. You see what’s going on and feel like you are a part of the world.
Moderate cycling has been shown to reduce depression and improve mood. Your brain releases endorphins, adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin when you exercise. They work to make you feel good. After cycling, you may feel a sense of accomplishment. If you cycle regularly, your overall attitude will improve.
Thirty to forty-five minutes of moderate cycling per day, will keep your mood high and reduce depression. The chemicals released in your brain will make you feel good and like you can do anything you want to do.
7. Helps improve memory
The hippocampus is the area of the brain that controls memory, and the bigger it is the better. Like with the other muscles in your body, regular exercise and stimulation will make the muscles of your brain, and the hippocampus grow. A study by the University of Illinois and University of Pittsburgh showed that people who are more active and exercise, have a larger hippocampus and up to 40 percent better memory. cycling can reduce the chances of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
8. Low impact form of exercise
Cycling seems like it could be a high impact exercise, but in reality, it is very easy on the joints. Your body does not suffer impact from pedaling. Cycling is a great exercise for seniors because it does not require shocking the joints like running or aerobics will. It allows you to increase your heart rate to appropriate levels for maintaining good health, without the potential damage to your knees, hips and other joints. You can get a good workout without the added pain.
Low impact exercise, like cycling is good for people just becoming active again and for seniors suffering from osteoarthritis and similar conditions. Start out with shorter durations and build up your strength.
9. Increases stamina
Cycling is a great way to build your stamina. It challenges your body to continue moving for longer periods of time. Unlike some forms of exercise, cyclists tend to stick with it until they reach their destination.
To increase your stamina, set a goal. You may decide to develop the ability to ride for 20 miles without becoming exhausted. Start slow and build up your duration over time. You may prefer to train for speed and intense riding. Whatever your goal is, give yourself time to build up your stamina and endurance. Steadily working at it will get you to where you want to be.
10. Fun way to stay fit
If you want to have fun while you work out, there is no better way than cycling. You get outside, get to see what is going on in your neighborhood. You get fresh air and sunshine. If you want to make it even more fun, join a cycling group or get together with a group of friends and cycle together. You not only have the basic benefits of cycling outdoors, it becomes a social event as well.
11. Can cycle at different levels (low intensity or high intensity)
Depending upon the level of activity you desire, you can cycle at a low-intensity level or a higher-intensity for more extreme exercising.
Low-intensity cycling allows you to get regular exercise while not pushing yourself beyond your capabilities. If you suffer from arthritis or other ailments, low-intensity cycling still gets you active and outside, so you can benefit from the exercise. If you are just getting started with exercise after a long period of being away from it, low-intensity cycling is a way for you to get started again, and possibly move to higher-intensity as you build your endurance.
High-intensity cycling is a way for enthusiasts to get into the swing of things. It allows for a low-impact type of exercise that allows for work out fans to really work up a sweat. High-intensity cycling can work out more than just the leg muscles. The arm muscles and other muscles will be used for riding over rough terrain and at very high speeds.
Get to where you want to go and get exercise at the same time Riding a bicycle to work has become a popular way for people to get exercise while completing the task of traveling to work. You get to work and get your work out for the day done at the same time. When you get home in the evening, you can relax and enjoy the evening, rather than going to the gym or getting on the treadmill.
13. Research shows cycling reduces colon and breast cancer risk
Research shows that exercise, even low-impact exercise like cycling can reduce the chances of developing cancer. This applies especially to colon and breast cancer. An analysis of 31 studies on cancer and physical activity found that women who remain physically active on a regular basis are 12 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who are not active.
The reports state that for every two hours of exercise done each week a woman can reduce her chances of breast cancer by 5 percent. After menopause, it can reduce breast cancer risk by 10 percent. Hormones like estrogen, fuel the development of breast cancer. Regular physical activity can reduce the level of estrogen for women.
Physical activity like cycling can reduce the risk of colon cancer by helping the food move through our bowels. The faster the movement, the less time waste material is sitting in the colon waiting to be expelled. Exercise keeps bowel movement more regular, helping reduce the risk of colon cancer.
14. Lowers risk of developing Type-2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is on the increase, due to dietary habits and lack of physical activity. Many people work in offices all day, sitting at a desk or computer and get little physical exercise. This has been shown to lead to Type 2 Diabetes. Research from Finland found that people who cycled 30 to 40 minutes per day, decreased their chances of developing the condition by 40 percent.
15. Helps cancer patients tolerate treatments better
A lot of people going through cancer treatments believe that they need to rest and take it easy during that time. However, research shows that people with cancer do better with more exercise not less. Riding your bike to and from chemotherapy treatments can help you feel better by the time you reach home.
Many people with cancer, who are undergoing treatments say that exercising, like cycling help reduce their nausea and feeling of fatigue. There are over 8o studies showing that exercise during cancer treatment can lead to better day-to day functioning, and a better quality of life for patients.
Fatigue during chemotherapy and other cancer treatments is not reduced by rest. The fatigue is caused by the toxic effects of the drugs, radiation and vomiting. Rather than making people in cancer treatment more fatigued, exercise (including cycling) has the reverse effect. Exercise can reduce fatigue during treatments and after they are completed.
16. Improves balance and coordination
Balance refers to the ability to control your body position in order to complete a task. It could be walking down the street or walking on a balance beam. Good balance is required for activities where you are still as well as those where you are moving, like when you are cycling.
Children develop balance and coordination through a number of exercises. They play games that involve running, jumping, catching a ball and many other activities. Cycling is one activity that almost every child wants to learn. Balancing on a bicycle, gives benefits in other activities during the day, that require coordination.
The benefits of developing good balance and coordination as a child, allows for appropriate posture and agility for many tasks. It helps children maintain focus and concentration for long periods of time. It helps with hand-eye coordination as well.
Children are quick to develop balance and coordination with cycling and other activities; however, adults can benefit from learning to ride a bicycle also. If you are clumsy or uncoordinated, regular cycling can help you improve your balance and coordination. It is a fun exercise too.
17. Helps firm up legs
There are several muscles in the legs that are used while cycling. Leg muscles used while cycling include the quadriceps which are the front of the thighs. Hamstrings, the back part of the thigh is also used. Calf muscles, Gluteus Maximus (butt), hip muscles, Plantar flexors (foot muscles), Dorsi flexors (foot).
Obviously, the legs are the part of the body that gets the greatest workout from cycling. It is noted that cyclists have the tights butts and strongest legs. Especially those who are into mountain biking, which is a bit more rigorous than normal bicycling. Mountain bikers ride up steep hills and over rugged terrain. This gives their legs and even greater workout.
18. Improve posture with high handlebars
Most cyclists forget about the fact that bicycle riding can help improve posture, if you select a bicycle with high handlebars. If you want to improve your posture, you can do it with this special type of bicycle. Your hands will be elevated, allowing you to sit with your back straight and your hands and arms raised.
While riding, you will keep your back straight and look straight in front of you, so your neck is straight as well. This helps you develop the habit of sitting straight and maintaining good posture even when you’re not cycling. This will alleviate back soreness and allow you to ride more comfortably.
19. Easy on joints
Cycling is a great cardiovascular form of exercise that does not pound your joints. If you have sore joints or arthritis, cycling is a great way for you to stay active because it is easy on the joints. You can avoid the jarring of your feet, legs and hips from running or aerobic exercises. .
20. Helps you sleep better
Exercise helps you burn energy during the day, so when it is time to sleep, you will experience a much deeper, more helpful sleep. People with sedentary lifestyles can experience difficulty sleeping, because they do not expend the energy their bodies produce during the day.
Cycling may make you a bit tired, but at night you will be able to reach that deep sleep level that allows your body to get the rest and rejuvenation it needs to keep you awake and alert the next day.
21. Increases brain power
Exercise is a great way to stimulate your brain. 60 minutes, three times a week, will keep your brain working at peak levels. Many people claim that exercise works better than antidepressants and psychotherapy in making them feel good. It reduces stress and gives them a clearer brain for tackling projects and goals.
Cycling helps rebuild the brain cells that are responsible for memory. This type of exercise and stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia. It will help keep your brain functioning an optimal levels for a long time.
Riding a bicycle to work, has become a popular way for many people, because it does two things at once. You get to where you need to be and knock out your daily exercise time. People who cycle to work claim that they are more productive during the day, because they are more awake and energized.
22. Helps with digestion
If you feel bloated and are dealing with constipation, cycling can help you get and stay regular. Exercise gets your body functioning in the right way. That includes your digestive system.
Cardiovascular workouts, including cycling, will stimulate your abdominal muscles. Your GI tract is a muscular part of your body. Exercising will make your GI tract contract more, pushing food and waste products through the intestines. This will keep you more regular and help you avoid constipation.
Low impact exercise like cycling, will help to stimulate your digestion system. A study by the Mayo Clinic says that exercise helps improve the efficiency of the digestive system and will help to maintain weight.
23. Improve Your Sex Life
Regular exercise, like cycling will improve your vascular health. This in turn boosts your sex drive. A study done by Cornell University found that male athletes had a higher sex drive than men who were inactive. They had the stamina of men two to five years younger.
A study done by the American Urological Association shows that people who cycle seem to have a higher sex drive than those who use swimming or running for exercise. This was true for both men and women.
Another study done at Harvard University showed that men over 50 who cycle a minimum of three hours a week, had a 30 percent reduced risk of impotence, than men who were inactive.
24. Improve the Function of Your Lungs
You will obviously be using your lungs more during cycling, which will improve their overall functioning. Strengthening your lungs can help prevent breathing problems that develop as we age.
25. You will do better at work
Studies show that people who exercise before work or during lunch, work better and accomplish more things while at work. People manage their time better, therefore get more done in the time at work. They are able to deal with the job stresses better as well.
15 Tips for Beginners
1. Protect Your Head:
Wear a helmet when you are cycling. It can prevent a lot of problems later on. Head injuries cause 60 percent of deaths from cycling every year in the U.S. Many people ride at speeds that can cause serious injury if an accident occurs.
Cars, trucks and buses may don’t always see cyclists and this can cause accidents. If you are in a major urban area, this is especially true. Make sure that you and your children always wear a helmet, even if biking for a short distance.
2. Use Your Gears:
Learn to use the gears on your bicycle properly. This will prevent damage to your knees from riding uphill. It will make your ride much nicer and smoother, because you will be able to navigate the terrain better and enjoy the ride.
Gearing will determine the relationship between the rate you pedal and the rate the drive wheel turns. If you have multiple gears, you can select the one that makes the ride most comfortable or you can increase the amount of work you need to do to keep moving. The latter will obviously burn more calories if that is your goal.
3. Make sure you have the right type of seat:
Selecting the right seat (saddle) can be a bit difficult, because there are so many different options. You should go to a bicycle shop and try out a number of different styles. It is important to find one that is comfortable for you, when riding. It will be a major factor in how much you enjoy riding and how often you ride. If you don’t have a comfortable saddle you will avoid riding.
Most cyclists take a while to find just the right seat. You may end up changing your seat several times before you find the perfect fit. Saddle shapes are available in a number of price ranges, materials and different weights.
If you find that you have to keep repositioning yourself on the bike, it might help to find a seat with a bigger dip. This will help you stay in place better. The seat giving you trouble may be too wide. Think about what your current seat has that you like and what you would like to improve on.
There are a number of seats made specifically for mountain bikes and others for road riding. You will need to decide on the type of material you want. Leather seats are more expensive than those made of synthetic materials. Then figure out the shape that works for you. Another thing to decide on is the padding. Do you want a firm seat or a soft one? There are a lot of things to think about when purchasing a bike saddle.
4. The bicycle you select should be the right fit for you:
When purchasing a bicycle, go to a professional bike shop and let the people there guide you in making your selection. Determine how you will use your bike. Will you ride around the neighborhood or do up plan to do rigorous riding? Maybe you will do a combination of the two. What are the roads like that you will be riding on? If you live in the country, you may be riding on rough, gravel roads. If, however you live in the city, you will be riding on paved streets.
A hybrid bike will give a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. Decide on whether you want high handle bars so you ride with your back straight or whether you prefer to lean over the handlebars as many racing bikes require.
Before going into the bike shop, do some research online about the different styles and types of bicycles. You will be more able to ask good questions and get what you want. You should sit on a number of different bikes and get a feel for them. Check the tire type and size as well. Slender tires are better for fast riding. With city riding you may need a different type of tire to prevent slipping.
If you have friends with bikes, ask to take them for a test ride to see how they feel. You will figure out right away how comfortable they are and what features you don’t care for. Take your time to make the right purchase. You will likely be riding your bike for a number of years to come.
5. When you start riding, keep your head up and watch in front of yourself:
When you are just starting out cycling, you need to be very alert for cars, other bicycles and pedestrians. This is especially true if you live in a large city. Keep your eyes focused om the pathway directly in front of you. Many bicyclists get hurt because they are not used to the things that will cross their path as they are riding.
Drivers turning corners, may not see you so always be alert when riding. You may need to make some fast moves to avoid accidents. People may cross the street in front of you. Dogs may run out in front of you. Having your eyes on the roadway directly in front of you is critical to your safety.
Watch out for holes in the pavement also. Hitting them can throw you off your bike and damage it as well. If you are thrown into traffic, you can be seriously injured. The main thing is to remember that you need to avoid all collisions because you are vulnerable. Stay alert to everything around you while riding.
6. Ride Correctly and follow traffic laws:
Be aware of the cycling laws in your community. It is illegal to ride on the sidewalk in most jurisdictions. You can hurt pedestrians and get a bad reputation by ignoring this rule of etiquette. You may also get ticketed for do it. When riding on the road, ride in the same direction as traffic is flowing. Do not ride facing oncoming traffic. Obey traffic signs and safety measures. Stop at red lights and stop signs. You will avoid unnecessary accidents this way.
Ride in the same direction as traffic is flowing. Ride as far to the right of the road as possible without hitting the curb or having an accident. Being considerate and courteous to drivers and other riders on the road is the best policy. Most people will return the favor.
7. Lights and Reflectors:
When riding late in the evening and at night you must have lights and reflectors on your bicycle. Many fatal crashes have happened because cyclists cannot be seen by drivers. If you plan to ride at night, make sure the lights are working on your bike. Also, it is a good idea to wear reflective clothing.
Having lights in the front, side and back of your bike will allow people to see you from all sides. This will help keep you safe. If your bike is a dark color, you should apply bright stickers so people will see it more clearly. Some night riders have lights attached to their tires. With each rotation, drivers are alerted to your presence.
8. Don’t Pedal in High Gear for Long Periods of Time:
If you pedal at high gear for a long period of time, you may injury your knees. High gear will tire your legs out faster, making long rides difficult. By riding in low-gear, you will pedal faster with less resistance. This will transfer the workload to your heart and lungs, rather than your leg muscles. Heart and lung muscles. The muscles in your heart and lungs do not fatigue in the same way as skeletal muscles do. You will be able to ride for a longer time span.
9. Best not to wear headphones:
Wearing headphones while cycling, at least in the beginning is not recommended. You need to have your attention on what’s going on around you, rather than your favorite tunes. You need to be alert to everything that is moving around you. Traffic alertness is critical. Until you get used to the traffic, having extra distractions is not wise.
Not only do you need to be aware of everything around you, to maintain your safety, you need to be listening for automobile traffic, other bikers, pedestrians, sirens and other sounds that can have an impact on your riding safety.
10. Change positions:
You will reduce fatigue by changing positions from time to time. You can avoid having your rear end and your hands from falling asleep from stationary positions. You will find riding more comfortable by shifting your body position a bit.
11. Dress appropriately:
Wearing the appropriate clothing while cycling is critical. When riding in weather that is below freezing, it is best to wear clothing that is windproof and thermal, for obvious reasons. Make sure that your feet and hands stay warm. You should have heavy rubber shoe covers to keep your feet warm and dry.
Wear lobster gloves to keep your hands and fingers warm. These pair your fingers together to extra warming. If you are riding in extreme cold, use bar mitts over your gloves. They are rubberized devices that attach to the handle bars. You put your gloved hands inside for more warmth. A face mask is also needed when riding in cold weather. Wear protective glasses as well, to safeguard the skin around your eyes. Wear tights under your pants to keep wind out. Thermal underwear is also a good idea.
When riding in warmer weather, wear shorts and a long-sleeved shirt. You might want to get a sun-blocking shirt if you burn easily. Wear sunglasses so your vision is not blocked by the sun. It is a good idea to wear socks along with a good pair of sneakers to avoid getting blisters on your feet. Riding gloves are also recommended. Also, whenever riding, don’t forget your helmet.
12. Wear proper shoes:
Your feet are going to be doing a lot of the work while you are riding. It is important to wear shoes that provide strength to your feet. You will not want to wear flimsy, lightweight shoes that might cause your feet to slip off the pedals.
Wearing strong, solid sneakers are a good way to go. Wearing shoes with non-slip soles is a good idea as well. You can avoid having your feet slide off the pedals, losing your balance and falling off your bike. You should wear comfortable shoes, so you can ride for longer time spans without pain.
13. Braking Techniques:
Before starting out, make sure you are familiar with the braking mechanisms on you bike. When an emergency stop is required, you can do one safely rather than have an accident. Keep your hands near the brakes at times when there is heavy traffic.
Use your brakes lightly. Slamming on the brakes can cause injury. It is best to use front and back brakes together. Using just your front brakes can propel you over the handlebars. Use front and back brakes together by pumping lightly. In an emergency, be sure to use them together.
When you need to do a fast stop, shift your body weight back om the bike. This will help to avoid skidding. Try not to brake in corners. This can make you go off the road. You should brake before you reach the corner or curve. In wet conditions, give yourself a lot more time to stop. Slick, wet pavements take longer to stop on. It is a good idea to practice braking before you get into heavy traffic.
14. Stay Visible:
The main thing to remember for safe cycling is to remain visible at all times. When drivers see you, you are much safer. Drivers want to avoid accidents as much as you want to. Just wear clothing that allows you to be seen. Ride in a manner that drivers and other people will be best able to see where you are. :
15. Ride like you’re driving a car:
The best way to stay safe while riding in traffic is to ride like you are driving a car. Obey traffic signs and signals. Use common driver etiquette. Do not weave in and out between cars. Stop at stop signs. Stop at traffic lights. Drivers are used to following traffic laws and protocol. You will ride safer if you think like a driver and go with the flow. Remember you are riding with others who follow certain rules and laws.
These are just some of the many benefits and safety tips for cycling. It is a great way to get regular exercise for anyone. It is beneficial for people at the triathlon level as well as those who are pedaling around the neighborhood. It is a great activity for young kids, teens, adults and seniors.
No matter what your age or physical ability, you can find a form of cycling that meets your needs and gives you a way to get out and get some fresh air, sunshine and regular exercise. Just make sure you are prepared with the knowledge and understanding to cycle safely and curiously.
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Jacky has a degree in Sports Science and is a Certified Sports and Conditioning Coach. He has also worked with clients around the world as a personal trainer.
He has been fortunate enough to work with a wide range of people from very different ends of the fitness spectrum. Through promoting positive health changes with diet and exercise, he has helped patients recover from aging-related and other otherwise debilitating diseases.
He spends most of his time these days writing fitness-related content of some form or another. He still likes to work with people on a one-to-one basis – he just doesn’t get up at 5am to see clients anymore.