On your bike!
The health benefits of cycling are an afterthought for many. But they shouldn’t be.
There is no doubt that the success of Team Sky and British cycling has increased cycling’s popularity. This has as much to do with being embued with competitive spirit as it does with any health concerns.
But it’s not just road cycling that is now big business. Mountain biking has seen a considerable rise in participants too.
Whichever form of cycling appeals to you the most, one thing is for sure. As John F Kennedy once said, “nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”
Above all, it’s fun. But if it can benefit your health, all the better.
We take a closer look at some of the benefits it offers.
Cycling Health Benefits – looking after your heart
According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), cycling to work can be hugely beneficial for your heart. According to a study at Glasgow University, it can ‘substantially reduce the risk of developing and dying of heart disease’.
And the very nature of outdoor cycling also taps into a popular exercise phenomenon. HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, to give it its full name. The idea is to introduce short bursts of higher intensity exercise. These should be separated by lower intensity periods. The combination works wonders for your cardiovascular system.
When cycling outside the terrain and wind resistance often change. This will challenge you at different levels of intensity during the ride. Not to mention stopping, starting and accelerating away from traffic lights will send your heart rate up and down. It’s a very natural way to vary intensity and tempo. And the advantage of incorporating cycling rather than running for HIIT is that it is low impact. It puts less pressure on joints.
Other physical health benefits to cycling
Some people are a little reticent of spending too much time in the gym. For them, cycling can be a great alternative for building strength. In particular, it will help you to build tone around the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. This is highly beneficial. These are areas that can become particularly compromised when sitting in an office chair all day.
Cardio-vascular gains and muscle conditioning may seem fairly logical benefits. But there are some wonderful side benefits from cycling too. It has been associated with better sleep. Cycling can improve the immune system. It helps you develop greater spatial awareness and even improvements to brain health.
The underestimated value of cycling
There are three often underrated benefits to cycling. Firstly, it is a great way to get amongst the great outdoors. Plenty of Vitamin D on your skin, a chance to get into nature and a chance to escape from artificial light.
Next, it actually requires a reasonable amount of coordination. Not only to balance and control the bike, but also to negotiate traffic when necessary. In that sense, it can help keep you mentally alert.
And let’s not forget, that for many, it offers a great way to meet new people and socialise.
A final word
If you are fairly new to cycling, you may be surprised by how challenging it can be. Getting a sports massage is a great way to recalibrate the muscles and improve your cycling efficiency.