When it comes to picking a new hobby as a fun way to work out, there are many options to consider. Some people may enjoy trail running, hiking, swimming or even joining an aerobics class at a local fitness studio. However, nothing quite beats the feeling of being surrounded by nature and other people, while exploring new spots on two wheels -- all while getting a good sweat!
So, here are 10 reasons why why we think cycling is the best exercise for you:
1. Cycling boosts mental well-being
There are numerous ways in which exercise can improve your mood: the basic release of adrenaline and endorphins and the increased confidence that comes from accomplishing new things (such as completing a sporting race or getting closer to that goal).
Cycling combines physical activity with being outside and discovering new sights. You can ride alone to give yourself time to process worries or concerns, or you can ride with a group to broaden your social circle.
Former Hour Record holder Graeme Obree has struggled with depression for much of his life, and he’s once quoted as saying, "Getting out and riding will help [people suffering from depression]... I'm not sure where I'd be if it weren't for cycling."
2. Cycling boosts your immune system
Appalachian State University's Dr. David Nieman and colleagues studied 1000 adults up to the age of 85. They discovered that exercise had a significant impact on the health of the upper respiratory system, resulting in fewer cases of the common cold. According to Nieman, “people can reduce sick days by about 40% by exercising aerobically on most days of the week while also receiving many other exercise-related health benefits.”
According to Professor Tim Noakes of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, mild exercise can improve our immune system by increasing the production of essential proteins and waking up dormant white blood cells. Why would you choose the bike? Cycling to work can shorten your commute and keep you away from germ-infested buses and trains.
However, there is a catch. Evidence suggests that your immune system is suppressed immediately after intense exercise, such as an interval training session. Still, adequate recovery, such as eating and sleeping well, can help to reverse this.
3. Cycling helps you drop kilos
When it comes to weight loss, the simple equation is 'calories out must exceed calories in.' Therefore, to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. Cycling burns calories at a rate ranging from 400 to 1000 per hour, depending on intensity and rider weight.
Of course, there are other factors to consider: the composition of the calories you consume influences the frequency with which you refuel, as does the quality of your sleep. In addition, the amount of time you spend burning calories is influenced by how much you enjoy your chosen activity. You'll be burning calories if you enjoy cycling. And if you eat correctly, you should be able to lose weight effortlessly!
4. Cycling builds sexy muscles!
Cycling's resistance component means that it not only burns fat but also builds muscle, particularly in the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. As a result, muscle is leaner than fat, and people who have a higher proportion of muscle burn more calories even when sedentary.
To be clear, unless you spend a significant amount of time at the squat rack, you will not have quads like a track sprinter or a CrossFit athlete. However, you will still develop well-toned glutes.
5. Cycling allows you to enjoy more food
If you decide to ride your bike to work, then you'll have a great excuse to include a couple of guilt-free snacks in your day.
A half-hour commute to work should burn between 200 and 500 calories, because of this, you'll earn yourself the right to a smug second breakfast at your desk. If you're serious about losing fat, you could ride your bike first thing in the morning without eating anything -- but that's mostly a habit reserved for the most dedicated of nutters.
Cycling raises your heart rate and circulates blood throughout your body and burns calories, reducing your chances of becoming overweight. As a result, it is one of several types of exercise recommended by the NHS as healthy ways to reduce your risk of developing major illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
Earlier this year, new evidence was presented in a study conducted by the University of Glasgow. Over five years, researchers studied over 260,000 people and discovered that cycling to work could cut a rider's risk of developing heart disease or cancer in half. The entire study can be found here.
“Cycling all or part of the way to work was associated with a significantly lower risk of adverse health outcomes,” said Dr. Jason Gill of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences.
7. Cycling is healthier for joint health
Many of the outcomes we discuss when discussing the advantages of cycling are exercise-related. Do you think it would be easier to just go for a run?
Running is a weight-bearing activity, so injury rates are higher. Cycling, unlike running, does not involve any weight-bearing. When scientists compared two groups of exercisers - long-distance runners and cyclists - they discovered that the runners suffered 133-144 per cent more muscle damage, 26% more inflammation, and 87% more DOMS.
While cycling is less likely to cause overuse injuries, they can still occur. Skimping on a professional bike fit is a bad idea because you'll end up spending more money on physio. Cycling does not increase bone density as much as other sports due to the lack of weight-bearing, so it's a good idea to incorporate some strength training into your programme.
8. Cycling helps you sleep better
It's probably not rocket science that riding a bike will help you sleep better -- but it's now been proven. Over 35 years, researchers at the University of Georgia studied men and women aged 20 to 85 and discovered that a 2% drop in fitness and 4% for women resulted in sleep problems.
Dr. Rodney Dishman, one of the study's lead authors, stated: "Between the ages of 40 and 60, there is the greatest decline in cardiorespiratory fitness. Unfortunately, this is also when issues with sleep duration and quality become more prominent."
Looking for reasons for the link, the researchers hypothesised that it could reduce anxiety caused by exercise, which improves sleep quality. Exercise also helps to prevent weight gain as we age, which is another cause of sleep problems.
Exercise has been linked to brain health and reducing cognitive changes that can leave us vulnerable to dementia later in life.
According to a 2013 study, cyclists' blood flow in the brain increased by 28% during exercise and 70% in specific areas. Not only that, but blood flow remained elevated by 40% in some areas even after training.
Improved blood flow is beneficial because red blood cells deliver a variety of nutrients that keep us healthy -- and the study concluded that we should cycle for 45-60 minutes, at 75-85%, of our maximum 'heart rate reserve' (max heart rate minus resting heart rate) four times per week.
10. Cycling boosts your spatial awareness
Cycling isn't just about raising your heart rate and leaving you out of breath. Climbing, descending and cornering all teach you to use your body weight to get the bike to go where you want it to go.
Learning how to manage these technical elements can provide a huge confidence boost, especially when you start to see results. Plus, you might find that your ability to manoeuvre that shaky shopping cart with the wonky wheels improves significantly.
Are you in?
So, are you ready to start cycling for health? Get started by choosing the right bike for you! Get in touch with us here for recommendations.