You probably already know that cycling is good for you—any exercise is better than no exercise, right? But did you know that riding a bike offers a whole host of additional health benefits besides the physical perks? Here are some benefits of cycling that will make you happier, healthier, and more stoked to keep riding.
Researchers found that high-intensity cycling (and other high-intensity interval training) can have major anti-aging benefits down to the cellular level. The study found that people who did high-intensity exercises 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.
Everyone knows that exercise can help reduce stress, but a recent study in the Lancet of over one million (!) participants confirmed that cycling is one of the top stress-busting activities. Riders enjoyed 21.6 percent fewer days of poor mental health compared to those who didn’t ride. This was only second to team sports (22.3 percent), and above other aerobic and gym activities. Simply making your rides group rides can help you reap the social benefits of a team sport and increase the amount of good days you have.
Increase your brain power
Need your grey matter to sparkle? Then get pedalling. Researchers from the University of Illinois found that a five percent improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness from cycling led to an improvement of up to 15 percent in mental tests. That’s because cycling helps build new brain cells in the hippocampus — the region responsible for memory, which deteriorates from the age of 30. It boosts blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which fires and regenerates receptors, explaining how exercise helps ward off Alzheimer’s.
Save the planet
Twenty bicycles can be parked in the same space as one car. It takes around five percent of the materials and energy used to make a car to build a bike, and a bike produces zero pollution. Bikes are efficient, too — you travel around three times as fast as walking for the same amount of energy and, taking into account the ‘fuel’ you put in your ‘engine’, you do the equivalent of 2,924 miles to the gallon. You have your weight ratio to thank: you’re about six times heavier than your bike, but a car is 20 times heavier than you.
It’ll make you happy
Even if you’re miserable when you saddle up, cranking through the miles will lift your spirits. Any mild-to-moderate exercise releases natural feel-good endorphins that help counter stress and make you happy. That’s probably why four times more GPs prescribe exercise therapy as their most common treatment for depression compared to three years ago. Just three 30-minute sessions a week can be enough to give people the lift they need.
Cycling builds stamina, muscle strength and overall physical endurance, so for many new cyclists it’s an unexpected benefit to have more energy for day-to-day things. Walking up the stairs at work will no longer be a challenge with the extra strength and fitness you will build with regular cycling.
Muscle strength and tone
Cycling will build muscle, especially the quads, glutes and calf muscles. The more muscle mass you build, the easier it is to burn fat. Depending on how you ride it can also tone and build your upper body. If you frequently stand in the saddle your arms and shoulders will get a good work-out too.
Decreases in fitness have been found to correlate with levels of insomnia in both men and women, so it’s important to stay in shape to give yourself the best possible chance of a good night’s sleep. Cycling in particular is a great way to reap exercise-induced sleep benefits since it reduces anxiety and keeps weight down, both of which are thought to contribute to insomnia.
Keep Disease At Bay
Aerobic exercise can be a significant boost to your immune system thanks to the boost in circulation it provides. One study found that people who exercised five days a week were more than 40% less likely to get the common cold compared to people who didn’t exercise, and when they did get sick they reported symptoms as being 30% less severe compared to non-athletes.