Getting on your bicycle can improve your fitness, help you to lose weight and is an environmentally friendly way to get from A to B. What’s not to love about cycling? This article takes a look at the many reasons people put on a helmet and get on the saddle and will inspire you and your friends to give it a go and reap the benefits.
Pedal for Improved Fitness
Anybody who has been on a bike will know that you can feel the burn pretty easily! Your legs ache, your heart beats and you begin to perspire. Cycling is an aerobic exercise and a great cardiovascular workout. As you sweat, your body temperature rises and your heart and lungs work hard to pump blood around your body. In turn your fitness will improve. You will be able to see a difference after just a few weeks of regular cycling. Feeling these improvements (and seeing them in inches lost) will help keep you motivated to keep on pedalling.
The more you cycle, the quicker your recovery will become and this is a sign that your fitness is improving, as well as the many health benefits. Good cardiovascular exercise helps prevent cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, stroke and high blood pressure. Your heart is a muscle and the more efficiently it works, the body will have a lower resting heartbeat, which in turn means you are less likely to suffer from heart-related ailments. The key to improved fitness is to cycle over 150 minutes a week, which is a fairly manageable chunk of time to fit into your weekly routine! The good part is that cycling can be a lot of fun and many people enjoy cycling as a hobby – including off road biking, downhill biking or entering cycling events and competitions. It can soon become a way of life for you.
Cycling for Muscle Strength
Just a few hours cycling a week can see huge improvements in muscle tone, especially on your legs and glutes. As well as losing calories, your muscles will become powerful and you will lose inches across your whole body. If your biking route includes some hills, this will dramatically improve your strength and endurance training, especially if you need to stand up to pedal. A planned cycle route, changing speeds and throwing in some inclines, will use all of the major muscle groups and help you tone up while at the same time helping your heart pump oxygen around your body more easily. As well as feeling great, you will start to look great too which can be a real confidence booster.
Biking for your Bones
Cycling is gentle on your joints. If you are recovering from injury or have any cartilage problems, this low impact exercise can help you get fit and lose weight without the heavy and repetitive pounding on your muscles and joints that other exercises such as running will do. The low strain also means you can cycle more often without exerting your joints or causing pain. It is an ideal sport for people with osteoarthritis. Many health professionals will advise people wanting to get back into exercise after injury to cycle or swim.
Wheels for Weight Loss
Cycling is one of the best forms of exercise for reducing your weight. Not only does it burn body fat but it also builds muscle, which means that you will continue to burn calories after you’ve finished your cycling session! Yes, that means if you’ve worked hard on your cycle session, you can shower and sit in front of the TV and your body will still be working hard for hours afterwards. If you are overweight, cycling can also be one of the most comfortable forms of exercises to begin a new regime with. This is because it is easier on your joints and you can start at a low intensity and build up slowly. Cycling can also be a good way to keep you motivated, as you can choose lots of different routes and keep it interesting, meaning you are much more likely to get back on your bike again and see your waistline reduce! An average, steady cycle burns around 300 calories an hour and this can vary greatly depending if you add hills to your training session or if you up the intensity. Cycling just twice a day (such as your commute to and from work) means the calorie loss will soon add up.
What’s more, regular exercise and weight control can help reduce the risk of type 2 Diabetes which has become a major health risk among modern life. A good bicycle ride can leave you feeling hungry – proof that you have burned lots of calories – but be careful not to overindulge on food. You want to get the balance right and fuel your body for the intensity of cycling, with plenty of protein and post-workout carbohydrates, but without eating too much and avoiding seeing much difference on the weighing scales.
One of the many benefits of bicycling is that it is a great beginner sport. Once you have learnt how to ride a bike, they say you never forget. But if you haven’t been on your bike since you were a child, it can be quite daunting. Once you have had your bike measured correctly and been fitted with safety gear, it is best to head somewhere safe such as a playground (with grass, in case of any falls).
The benefit for beginners is that as well as being low impact on the joints (as mentioned), it can also low impact on your heart! You can pedal as fast or as slow as you like and in a high or low gear, meaning you can start off slowly and increase your pedal power as your stamina, strength and aerobic capacity increases. It is also perfect for older people or those recovering from illness or injury. You can even look at having a battery operator fitted, which can take some of the strain off on big hills! When you start off as a cyclist – the gears will become your best friend!
Once you know how to ride a bike comfortably, you will notice your co-ordination, balance, agility and flexibility improve – yet more benefits to bicycling! If you have a properly fitted bike, it can help improve your posture as well. As your leg and core muscles strengthen and your posture improves, you will become more bike confident and less wobbly on those wheels! This balance will help you in other parts of your life, especially as you get older and less mobile.
Alternatives to outdoor biking
While outdoor biking has lots and lots of benefits, as outlined above – it is not for everyone. If you want to give cycling a go but want an alternative, why not try hand cycling (powering pedals with your hands in straps rather than using your feet) or indoor bikes. There are plenty of spinning classes at local gyms which can be a great way to build up bike confidence or you can purchase a good stationery bike and set it up in the comfort of your own home.
Conquering the head demons
Cycling can benefit your mental health and wellbeing as well as your physical health and fitness. This is because cycling, particularly outdoors in the fresh air, can help decrease stress levels and exercise such as this can reduce anxiety and depression. With 1 in 4 people suffering a mental illness of some kind, getting on your bike can help clear your mind of worries, concentrate on the scenery around you and improve your overall health. It is also a fun activity that can be enjoyed with friends or as part of a cycling club and the social aspect can be another boost to your wellbeing. Not only can cycling help reduce stress, it can also make you sharper mentally, as exercise improves your memory, reactions and creativity. The perfect reason to take a bike ride to work or to grab a quick cycle before an interview or exam.
Save the Planet …
This article has outlined lots of different ways that cycling can improve your health, as well as being fun and sociable. Add to that the fact that cycling is an environmentally friendly mode of transport compared to driving or public transport, and you are onto a winner!
… and your bank account!
Cycling saves you money. If you add up all those times a bike ride to the shop, to work or to visit a friend has saved you filling up the car with gas, it soon mounts up. Not only is cycling great for your physical health, it is also beneficial for your bank account.
Not convinced? Here are even more benefits to using your bicycle …
- Cycling is a time efficient form of exercise. In just half an hour, you can cover a large distance on your bike compared to walking or even jogging. It is also a great way to skip those dreaded traffic jams. You can run an errand to the bank or post office on your bike, meaning you can tick off some activities off your list AND get your exercise for the day done!
- Cycling is an easy way to fit fitness into your everyday life. Getting on your bike and pedalling can quickly become a part of your daily routine, either specifically as an exercise slot or just to get from one location to another. If you have a bike, helmet, a bike lock and suitable biking attire, you are good to go. The lack of prep needed means that it can be easier to motivate yourself to cycle than other forms of exercise.
- Fitness can be fun and cycling proves this. There is no better feeling that free-wheeling down a hill with the wind in your hair as you whizz past the scenery. The feeling can become addictive and you will look forward to getting outside in the fresh air.
Getting on your bicycle just a few times a week can dramatically increase your life expectancy. A healthier and happier you, means you are likely to live longer and many studies back this up. Cycling is often the exercise of choice for people of various age groups and fitness levels because it improves your health, helps you reach your goal weight quickly and is cheap and cheerful. The benefits are endless, so why not give it a try?
Originally written by:
Johnny Anderson is the founder of Cyclistblog.net, where you can find all the articles about cycling such as the guides to help you identify the best bike from the market, the essential features. Product reviews and tips for you to use the bike in the most effective way also appear on this site to help you to know what you should do and how to use the cycling features in the best way.