If you’re reading this article, you’re probably looking at getting into cycling or trying to convince others to get into the sport of cycling. Maybe you just stumbled upon here – either way, being fit and healthy is super important.
What better way to do that, than by cycling?
To be fit and healthy it’s important 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 on a regular basis is one of the best ways to reduce your health-related problems, usually associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Now it’s important to know that even your diet plays a crucial role in your ability to stay fit and healthy – we’ll get into that a little later.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CYCLING
Here’s our top-10 list of benefits we associate with cycling.
1. NON-IMPACT SPORT
One of the major reasons cycling is great for people of all ages and all kinds of fitness levels is because cycling is a non-impact sport.
In contrast, a sport like running is heavily weight bearing – therefore injury rates are higher. Every footfall in a harsh and stress laden impact that can eventually lead to excessive bone and joint wear. Proper stride and foot-landing form in running is crucial to reduce the risk of injuries as much as possible.
After a test conducted by scientists which compared groups of runners and cyclists, it was found that runners suffered 133-144% more muscle damage and 256% more inflammation in joints than cyclists.
Cycling on the other hand is not weight bearing – there is of course some weight being applied but it’s not in the same harsh manner as with running.
2. WEIGHT LOSS AND FAT BURNING
Want to burn those love handles? Cycling could be the new best way to do so. Steady paced cycling can burn approximately 300 -500 calories (depending on intensity) per hour. If you cycle for 30 minutes every day, you would burn approximately 5kgs of fat in a year.
Since cycling helps build muscle, cycling will also boost your metabolic rate long after you’ve finished your ride. This will help your body burn calories and fat even more efficiently when you’re not exercising
3. INCREASED MOBILITY
Cycling works the body as a whole, not just a single group of muscles or a part of the body. Cycling improves general muscle function, with little risk of over-exercise or strain – of course hydration and nutrition is important.
Regular cycling strengthens leg muscles and is great for the mobility of hip and knee joints. You will gradually begin to see an improvement in the muscle tone of your legs, thighs, glutes, and hips. If you’re a runner you’ll see an improvement in your running as well.
4. COMBATS ILLNESSES
Cycling is known to be effective against diabetes and even cancer. Additionally cycling is also a morale booster – mental health conditions such as depression, stress and anxiety can be reduced by regular bike riding.
Research in Finland has found that people who cycle more than 30 minutes a day had a 40% lower risk of developing diabetes. Also, some research has shown that if you cycle, it can lower your risk of developing certain types of cancers.
5. IMPROVED CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH
While it may seem untrue, cyclists are actually exposed to much lower levels of pollution than other motorists on the road – even in a country like India. This is primarily due to the reason that cyclists spend less time stationary in traffic.
It’s a well know fact that cycling is a good way to get the heart pumping – this improves overall blood and oxygen circulation in the body. Cycling strengthens your heart muscles and improves lung functioning by lowering your resting pulse and reducing blood fat levels.
6. IMPROVES MENTAL HEALTH
Have you ever heard of someone not enjoying a ride on their bicycles? We certainly haven’t. Cycling is always fun, especially with some company. You’re socializing as well as keeping fit, it’s the perfect combination.
Mental health conditions such as depression, stress and anxiety can be reduced and brought under control by regular bike riding. This is simply due to the effects of the exercise itself and because of the enjoyment that riding a bike can bring.
Self-esteem is also significantly boosted when cycling. It’s the best feeling ever after finishing a really challenging ride, your body will release a whole bunch of feel-great hormones that will make you feel like you can take on the world. Plus, the benefits you will notice after a few weeks of serious cycling will definitely help boost morale.
7. HEALTHY MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
Why not cycle to work instead of slouching behind a steering wheel sitting in traffic? You’ll get to work faster and also incorporate a workout for the day. When your co-workers also see you cycling to work they’ll follow pursuit too. You’ll then have the satisfaction of making people healthier.
Since your ride to work is a workout in itself you won’t need to go home to work out again – it’s a win-win situation. You save a ton of money too!
8. STAMINA BUILDING
Cycling can help improve you stamina by leaps and bounds – it will take time but regular training can cause drastic changes. Specifically, interval training is known to improve endurance in cycling.
Short bursts of very high-intensity sprints on the bike will build your aerobic system while also being hard enough to build some fast-twitch sprint fibers, which makes those power-producing fibers more resistant to fatigue over time. As a result, you will be able to run longer and cycle longer distances without fatiguing.
9. MUSCLE BUILDING
The element of resistance in cycling is what helps you build muscle. It doesn’t just burn fat, it also builds muscle – particularly around the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves.
Don’t worry – you won’t end up with quads like that of a track sprinter unless you invest a serious amount of time at the squat rack in the gym lifting heavy weights. You will, however, develop a nicely toned derriere.
Muscle is leaner than fat, ideally, you’d want to build a decent amount of muscle on you so that your metabolism is higher. This essentially means that people with a higher percentage of muscle, burn more calories even when sedentary.
10. SLOWER AGEING
You read that right. This isn’t some gimmick. It’s 100% true. It had been found that high-intensity cycling can have some serious anti-aging benefits down to a cellular level. How cool is that?!
A study found that people who did high-intensity exercises such as cycling had an increase in mitochondrial capacity. A decline in mitochondria can lead to physical decline, so the better your mitochondria can function, the more rejuvenated you will be – all the way down to a cellular level.
There you go – there are a zillion reasons to get yourself back on a bicycle and this list is just a few that really stood out.
The best part about cycling is that anyone can do it. There’s no restriction when it comes to age or gender or sex. You can enjoy cycling in a group or by yourself. You also don’t need to schedule time in gyms or courts (eg squash or badminton courts) to enjoy your sport.
There’s no better time to get get and get your bums on the saddle!
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WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CYCLING
I’m an avid mountain biker and I like riding fast and flowy singletrack. As I keep riding, I continuously work on honing my riding skills. I like to ride whenever possible, especially with friends. I also like to influence folk into getting to ride more often.
Working on bicycles has also been a keen interest of mine for quite some time.
DISCIPLINE: Mountain biking and Road biking
CURRENT BIKE: Merida One Twenty 9.600 & Specialized Allez Elite DSW
DREAM BIKE: Santa Cruz 5010