There are many things to appreciate about cycling, including getting to explore new areas and feeling the fresh air on your face. Going on a bike ride is a great workout because it has a long list of health advantages.
Any form of exercise benefits your body and mind, unlike other aerobic activities (such as jogging or walking). Cycling may be done at a high intensity without putting undue strain on the joints.
Numerous studies that have examined the relationship between cycling and health have discovered that just a few days per week of riding is sufficient to produce the following health advantages
1. Cycling Increases Aerobic Fitness (Without Stressing Your Joints)
Physical fitness includes cardiovascular or aerobic exercise. Everyone over 18 is advised to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio) each week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PDF), noting that more is associated with greater long-term health benefits. One approach to incorporate this action is to cycle at any intensity.
And according to Bianca Baldini, DPT, a physical therapist and USA-certified triathlon coach based in South Nyack, New York, cycling offers a fantastic choice if you have hip, knee, or ankle joint issues or you just wish to prevent them in the future. Cycling is thought to be low impact, which implies that it strains the joints in the lower extremities less, according to her. Cycling may challenge a person’s entire system without placing an undue strain on their joints or using an improper bike setup.
2. Cycling Strengthens the Core
You might think of cycling as more of cardio than a strength exercise. However, Baldini asserts that because you must maintain balance while riding an outside bike, this type of riding can considerably tax your abdominal muscles and strengthen your core. This is especially true when traveling through rougher terrain, where you will frequently need to change your course to avoid obstructions.
Engaging several muscles in your lower back, abdominals, and hips is necessary to balance the body’s center of mass over rotating wheels, according to the expert. Even small shifts while riding might activate those muscles.
Neel Anand, MD, director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles, adds that having a stronger core can have a significant impact on your health. According to him, having a stronger core reduces your likelihood of experiencing back discomfort as well as tension headaches and energy dips because you’re in better alignment throughout the day. Whatever the activity, having a stronger core and more stability can improve your movement efficiency, he claims.
3. Exercise May Benefit Bone Health
Dr. Anand claims that higher-impact exercises like jumping and sprinting put the body under stress, which can increase bone density, an essential component of healthy aging. However, if you travel off-road, your preference for cycling doesn’t mean you’re losing out on anything.
For instance, a prior study discovered that mountain biking can provide sufficient ground impact to be advantageous for bone strength. The researchers highlight in the study that maintaining stability also necessitates the use of upper-body muscles, and the interaction of these two elements may enhance the bone structure in general.
4. A Bike Ride Could Aid in Sleep
According to a research review published in December 2021 in Sleep Medicine Reviews, adding a ride in the early evening may help if you have trouble sleeping well.
Cycling appeared to be the most advantageous form of aerobic exercise, despite the fact that the analysis considered a variety of aerobic activities, according to Melodee Mograss, Ph.D., a cognitive neuropsychologist at Concordia University in Montreal’s department of health, kinesiology, and applied physiology. She continues by saying that the ideal time to terminate a ride is two hours before going to bed.
“We don’t know why cycling is so prevalent in this. However, we are aware that activities like cycling fast increase core body temperature while being performed, forcing the body to compensate for the increase in heat using cool-down processes “she claims. That usually results in more effective temperature regulation, which carries over into bedtime and may, as a result, help you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer.
5. Cycling Is Beneficial for Heart Health
According to Baldini, cycling challenges the heart, lungs, and muscle system in a positive way, just like other forms of aerobic exercise. Increased blood pressure, general circulation, and better oxygen consumption are all boosted by this.
According to earlier studies, frequent cyclists are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than non-cyclists.
6. Cycling Improves Mental Health
Cycling is no exception to the rule that exercise is good for mood and mental health.
In a study published in February 2019 in PLoS One, 100 persons between the ages of 50 and 83 were examined; roughly one-third of them did not cycle, another third rode a bicycle at least three times per week, and the remaining third utilized an e-bike, which has a motor attached to assist with pedaling. Participants were required to continue these riding (or non-cycling) routines for the duration of the study’s 8-week period. When compared to noncyclists, those who cycled at least three times per week—whether on conventional cycles or electric bikes—showed considerable improvements in their mental health, cognitive performance, and general perception of health and well-being.