Why do you ride your bike?
Well, most of us do it for sheer fun, commuting, or training for upcoming endurance mountain bike competitions.
But have you ever thought about cycling as a way of boosting your general health wellbeing? No?
Today, I’m going to explain 16 scientifically-proven health benefits of biking that will make you want to sell your car!
Lose weight without thinking too hard
Cycling is an effective way of controlling or reducing weight thanks to its ability to raise your metabolic rate, increase your muscle mass, and burn body fat.
Research results suggest that you need to burn at least 2,000 calories (8,400 kilojoules) ever week through exercise.
According to a research study done by Harvard Medical School, 3 riders weighing 125 lbs, 155 lbs, and 185 lbs, and riding a bike consistently for 30 minutes burned 150, 186, and 222 calories respectively.
It’s, therefore, very easy to deduce from these findings that heavier people tend to burn more calories when cycling than folks who weigh less.
So how many calories you’re burning during cycling?
Let’s check it out.
Pedal your way to good health away from major illnesses
We all know what we need to do to increase our odds of living a long and healthy life, right? Stop smoking, make smart food choices, and cut back on sweets.
Oh, you also need to embrace fitness as a lifestyle- and this is where cycling steps in.
Health experts have found a solid association between cycling and reduced risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and even the big C- cancer!
Let’s break it down a bit.
Cuts heart disease and cancer risk
An extensive study released in 2017, in fact, found out that the health benefits of cycling extend to lowering the risk of cancer and heart diseases.
Precisely, this 5-year study of 250,000 UK commuters showed that cycling on a regular basis cut the risk of cancer by 45% and heart disease by 46%. You can read the full study here.
a) Cycle away from heart disease
A research study done by Purdue University in the US shows that by cycling regularly, you can cut your potential of developing heart diseases by 50%.
In addition, a study conducted by the British Medical Association shows that by cycling 32km (20 miles) every week, you lower the risk of developing heart disease by an unbelievable 50%.
This is because cycling utilizes the large muscles in the legs to increase your heart rate, consequently improving your cardiovascular fitness.
b) Cycle away from the big C
There are tons of research reports that show that pretty much any exercise can help keep cancer at bay, but certain studies now show that cycling is the leading type of exercise for maintaining healthy working cells.
A long-term study by Finnish researchers showed that men who exercised moderately for a minimum of 30 minutes each day lower their risk of developing cancer by half compared to those who didn’t exercise.
Impressively, cycling to work was among the moderate types of exercises that they suggested. Other separate studies show that women who cycle regularly lower their potential to breast cancer by 34%.
Cycling and Parkinson’s disease
While preventing Parkinson’s disease is still a mystery in the medical fraternity, recent studies prove that intense physical activities can aid in reducing most of the symptoms such as gait, motor coordination, and grip.
What’s even more interesting is that a study conducted by Jay Alberts, a Neuroscientist at Cleveland Clinic, found out that cycling faster-delivered results similar to those that the activation of deep brain stimulation causes.
Following this evidence, Chintan Shah, a co-researcher concludes that cycling is a cost-effective therapy for Parkinson’s disease.
It’s a fun immune system rejuvenator
There are lots of research findings that suggest that exercising may help in keeping you disease-free by making your immune system stronger.
Dr. David Nieman led a team of researchers to study 1000 adults aged up to 85 years.
He found out that exercising had a significant benefit on the health of their upper respiratory system- and this minimized cases of common cold.
Great for bowel movements (a.k.a reduced constipation)
This is one of the least expected pedal perks. But believe it or not, the benefits of hopping onto that bike extends down your core and can actually help ease your Number 2.
Experts tell us that when exercising, the increase in heart rate and breathing stimulates the natural contraction of the intestinal muscles.
This squeezes the stool thereby leading to faster bowel movements.
Dr. Ana Raimundo, a gastroenterologist at Harley Street says that since the stool does not stay for so long in the large intestine, the body does not absorb most of the water into the system.
And this means that the poop is softer thereby reducing incidences of constipation.
In addition, ‘’the increased breathing and heart rate prevents bloating which consequently lowers the risk of bowel cancer,’’ Dr. Raimundo says.
Great for better lung health
Claiming that cycling boosts your lung’s health may seem perversely counterintuitive at first. But view it from the angle of fumes that you are exposed to on your daily commutes- and it starts making sense.
One study conducted by the Healthy Air Campaign involved fitting air pollution detectors to a car driver, a bus user, a pedestrian, and a cyclist using a busy and congested road through central London.
According to the results, the car driver was exposed to 5x higher pollution levels than the cyclist, 3.5x more than the pedestrian, and 2.5x more than the passenger on the bus. Bottom line: the cyclist won.
Challenges and boosts your brainpower
A study by the University of Illinois proved that an increase in cardio-respiratory fitness using a bike caused an improvement of up to 15% in mental tests.
The researchers explain that this is because cycling leads to the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus- this is a small organ of the brain that is associated with long-term memory.
This means that cycling not only makes you fitter, but it also gives your grey matter a sparkle.
In a 2013 study, it was found out that when exercising, the blood flow in the cyclist’s brain rose by 28% in most parts and up to 70% in specific areas.
What’s more is that in some areas, blood flow remained up by 40% even after exercise.
This increase in blood flow leads to the growth of the cardiovascular system further into the brain thereby boosting its performance.
Even better, cycling has been found to double the production of new brain cells and this improves your cognitive abilities.
Spice up your sex life
There are 2 ways that riding a bike can get things a little dirtier and much more fun in the bedroom:
- the bicycle sex position itself (that’s a story for another day) and
- keeping you physically fit (that is, by riding a real bike).
There is enough evidence to prove that fitness fanatics often have a higher sex drive. In a study done by Cornell University, male athletes were found to exhibit sexual aggressiveness of men 2-5 years younger.
The study also shows that exercising can delay menopause in women by up to 5 years too and they are also easily aroused.
Meanwhile, another research carried out by Harvard University researchers found that biking for at least 3 hours each week lowers the risk of impotence for men aged over 50 years by 30% compared to those who engage in little exercise.
Cycling is low impact
Most of the benefits that you get from cycling are directly linked to exercising. But can’t you simply run other than a bike?
Well, the thing with running is that it is weight-bearing- and this means that its rate of injuries is much higher. On the other hand, cycling is not weight-bearing, and, therefore, has a lower rate of injuries.
When researchers compared a group of cyclists and long-distance runners, they found out that the runners had suffered 133%-144% more muscle damage compared to the cyclists, 256% more inflammation, and 87% higher DOMS.
Note, however, that while cycling has a lower rate injury from overuse, they can still occur. Therefore, it makes sense to invest in a professional bike.
In addition, keep in mind that the fact that cycling is less weight-bearing also means that it won’t do much as far as increasing your bone density is concerned.
Thus, you might still want to compliment your regimen with a little strength training.
Trick to getting deep sleep- more of it!
We all know that cyclists require good sleep. The good news is that the act of cycling itself can be all you need for a healthy, long, and deep night’s sleep.
The evidence lies in a study conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia which involved analyzing the health and sleep habits of 8000 participants over a period of 35 years.
The researchers found out that a slight decline in fitness level by as little as 2% and 4% in men and women respectively led to difficulties in sleep.
Although the jury is yet to come up with solid reasons of how exercises lead to better sleep, experts argue that exercising minimizes anxiety which is the leading cause for insomnia.
This explanation is very much in line with the results of another study by medicine researchers from Stanford University. In this study, the time that insomniacs took to fall asleep was cut by half after cycling for 20-30 minutes per day.
Explaining these results, Prof. Jim Horne, a sleep expert from Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Center says that when cycling outside, the daylight helps in syncing your circadian clock back in rhythm.
In addition, he says that cycling in daylight helps in lowering the level of cortisol- the hormone that causes stress- in your system. And the results? You get a deep sleep.
It supercharges your spatial awareness and handling
Spatial awareness is all about being able to understand and interact with your immediate environment.
These are skills that make it possible to navigate around a busy city, avoid obstacles on the road, or simply determining left from right.
This ability is innate but it can also be acquired. Whether you are born with it or you acquired, spatial awareness needs to be exercised on a regular basis.
When cycling, climbing and descending hills, avoiding obstacles and other road users, and negotiating corners is a great way of charging your spatial awareness and handling skills.
Mind you, this is one of the reasons why you need to get a bike for your kids too, that is, if you haven’t done it yet.
Obsessed with looking younger? Get yourself a bike!
A study published in the Journal of Aging Cell set out to determine the impact of cycling on aging.
The researchers in this study compared data collected from amateur cyclists and a non-exercising group of healthy adults.
The findings were that the cycling group preserved most of its muscle mass and strength with age while those who didn’t exercise lost it.
In addition, the men in the cycling group also had higher testosterone levels.
1 Hour Cycling= 1 Additional Hour to Your Life
With all the health benefits of cycling that we’ve seen so far, it comes as no surprise that there exists a very strong correlation between cycling and longer life expectancy.
Actually, there are lots of studies that link cycling to living long.
Pedaling towards great mental wellbeing
Riding on 2 wheels is not only beneficial for your physical health, but it also has a whole world of benefits for your mental health including making you happy, minimizing stress, and boosting one’s self-esteem and confidence.
- How cycling leaves you feeling happy
According to the science of positive psychology, cycling triggers the release of chemicals such as dopamine and cannabinoids- the same agents that give weed smokers- the ‘good feeling.’
- How cycling reduces stress
It’s a well-known fact that exercises greatly help in reducing stress. A recent study with a whopping one million participants, however, confirmed that cycling is among the top stress-busting forms of exercise.
In this study, cyclists had 21.6% fewer days of poor mental wellbeing in comparison to non-riders.
Cycling came second after team sports (22.3%) and was above all other forms of aerobic and gym activities.
This means that by riding in groups, you can enjoy the benefits of team sport and, thereby increase your amount of good days.
- How cycling boosts your self esteem
In addition to leaving the riders happy and with lower stress levels, cycling has also been found to boost self-esteem.
In this study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science, a group of sedentary college students riding on stationary bikes or running on a treadmill for 30 minutes had a self-esteem score 11% higher compared to the group that didn’t exercise.
I hope this article helped reveal the health benefits of cycling that you might have been missing all along.
And now I’m very eager to hear from you.
Which health benefit caught your eyes or surprised you?
Or perhaps you have a question or a comment related to cycling.
Either way, I’m waiting to hear from you right now in the comment section below.