It’s good news! The cycling revolution is taking over the globe. Now you have green cycling movements, races, sportives and an increasing number of commuters switching from four to two-wheeled transport.
Are you a seasoned pro with a bike for every discipline going? Or perhaps you’re the proud owner of a shiny new hardtail, and raring to hit the trails.
Whatever your reasons for biking, here is a comprehensive list of the benefits of cycling for the sport we’ve all grown to love.
The top physical benefits of cycling are:
- Tones and builds muscle
- Great for the skin
- Effective weight-loss method
- Strengthens cardiovascular system
- Increases VO2 Max
- Boosts sexual performance
- Improves sleep
- Easy on the joints
- Reduces the risk of respiratory problems
- Increases immunity
Where and How Did Cycling Begin?
Although the benefits of cycling are exciting, how the whole story began is equally as fascinating. The first invention of the bike took place in the 1800s.
However, it’s not that easy to give credit to an exact name when you ask who actually created the bicycle. This is because it passes through a number of phases and people. From the unicycle to huge bicycles and tricycles.
Cycling came so far in such a short time that the first world championship of cycling started in 1893! The first cycling event that took place at the Park of Saint-Cloud Paris was a 1,200-meter race held on May 31st, 1868.
We can see that there must have been a reason that cycling came so far. Could it be simply because of all the benefits that cycling possesses?
Cycling comes with a peloton of advantages, but for many of us, it’s the physical perks that wear the yellow jersey. While some may be apparent, such as stronger legs, it’s quite interesting to delve deeper into each of these benefits of cycling.
Tones and Builds Muscle
Before we get rolling, here’s a quick biology lesson on how you build muscle.
When you exercise, you’re quite literally damaging your muscles. Your muscle fibers start breaking down through small tears.
Jump to post-workout, this is when the real action begins—the body starts the repair process and the gains are made. Your muscles build through a cellular process that involves fusing muscle fibers together.
But which ones are we talking about?
Cycling mainly calls upon the lower body for pedal power, which means you’ll end up with a pair of legs made for wearing nine-inch heels. What’s more, other areas will also get a workout. The most significant muscles targeted include:
Glutes, Quads and Hamstrings
The gluteal muscles are what you’re sitting on right now reading this. That's because it’s the group that makes up the butt.
When pedaling, they are most active when you start to push on the downstroke (power phase). These three muscles work together with your hips to rotate the thighs during this motion.
The quads (quadriceps) are located in the front of the thigh and another strong pedal pusher. They become engaged in both the push and pull phases of the revolution.
Your hamstring is one of the three posterior leg muscles running from the hips to the knees. As these muscles are quite susceptible to injury, it’s vital to keep them strong and exercise them regularly.
These are essentially what provide you with most pedal power.
If you want some out-of-the-saddle exercises to improve your strength in these key areas—give squats and lunges a try.
Your calves are situated in the back of your lower leg. Made up of two muscles, one lifts the heel in the up-stroke and the other helps the knee to bend.
Heel or hanging calf raises are ideal for giving them an extra workout.
Your arms and shoulders will also feel the benefits of cycling. As you’re pedaling along, you’ll often adjust your riding position for bike control. It’s these tweaks in body movement that apply pressure on this area—leading to improved strength and tone.
If you feel your arms need a little attention, tricep dips and press-ups are both solid contenders.
The core is quite literally the center of your body’s universe. It’s the part of your body known as the trunk or torso, which includes abdominals, obliques and pectorals. All of these muscles help to control and support the upper body and back.
When you cycle, a strong core is essential to channel more power through your legs and increase your stamina to keep those muscles going. A weak core can lead to a protruding stomach and bad posture. In fact, this region works much like a corset around your back and stomach, keeping everything tight and strong.
If you’re looking to improve your core strength alongside your cycling routine, incorporate more abdominal focused exercises into your workouts.
Beneficial moves include planks, Russian twists and pilates toe taps.
Easy on the Joints
Just like swimming, cycling is classed as a non-weight bearing or low impact form of exercise. Simply put, this means you don’t support your body weight when doing it.
This type of activity is more forgiving to your joints, which opens up exercise to all levels of age and fitness.
For example, if you have knee pain due to arthritis—this is especially important for women, as we are more susceptible to this condition than men. Or perhaps you’re recovering from an injury of some kind.
Cycling allows you to keep active without aggravating your condition.
Effective Weight Loss Method
Losing or gaining weight is determined by your caloric intake and expenditure. In short, if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight and vice versa.
Cycling burns calories. In fact, cycling at 18mph for 60 minutes can burn approximately 900 calories for a person who weighs around 75 kilograms.
In terms of the effort you must put in to lose weight, one pound of fat is equivalent to around 3,500 calories. This means you must cut out 3,500 calories to drop one pound of fat. This can be achieved with exercise, diet or combined over a controlled amount of time.
Anyone who has tried to cut back on the calories will understand how difficult it is to maintain. This is one reason why many fail to lose weight. Studies indicate that if you take up cycling, you can still drop the pounds without drastically depriving yourself.
Cycling is undoubtedly an effective way to burn calories and fast! The result? Weight loss.
Strengthens Cardiovascular Health
The cardiovascular system relates to circulation and includes the heart and blood vessels. As you can imagine, these are quite essential components of the human body that keep us alive.
If you lead an unhealthy lifestyle, problems can occur.
One of the problems is called cardiovascular disease, the general term given to conditions of this category. This can include coronary heart disease, aortic atherosclerosis, diseases of the peripheral vascular system and heart failure.
But there is a way to strengthen your cardiovascular system.
Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce your risks, particularly heart disease. Taking up regular physical activity, such as cycling, can significantly improve your long term health.
Great For Skin
Exercise in any form is an incredible remedy for better skin! Although it’s brilliant for your health, we often forget about the largest organ in the body, your skin.
As we’ve just seen, physical activity boosts the circulatory system and therefore helps your external tissue.
As your circulation gets a boost from the cardiovascular impact of cycling, pulmonary circulation increases. In plain English, this means blood flow increases within the body. The heart pumps oxygenated blood into the aorta (the main artery), which leads it to the rest of your body.
Not only is blood flow excellent for delivering oxygen and nutrients to your skin cells, but it also takes away impurities. These could include free radicals, which, if left, can be detrimental to your skin.
Lastly, when you cycle, if you’re putting the pedal down, you sweat. Your pores begin to open up, which in turn cleans them out. As long as you’re using a cleanser immediately after sweating, you can find some tremendous aesthetic results from cycling.
Reduces the Risk of Respiratory Problems
Respiratory or breathing problems tend to be classed as chronic. This means they’re long term and they can have detrimental effects on your life. These can include asthma and even cancer.
Other respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema, can’t be prevented entirely, but there are ways to lower your chances.
For both chronic and short term respiratory problems, cardiovascular exercise, including cycling, can significantly reduce your risk. They can also help you to recover faster, as you will have strengthened your respiratory system.
Increases VO2 Max
Following on from this respiratory section, let’s take a look in more detail at the benefits of cycling for your lungs. Pedal power itself helps to strengthen these organs and increase your VO2 max.
Your VO2 max is defined as your maximum oxygen uptake during incremental exercise. In simple terms, it means the maximum amount of oxygen your body breathes in during exercise. If you have a low VO2 max, you are likely to run out of breath faster.
When cycling, you’ll usually be riding at one consistent pace. However, to target your VO2 max, you’ll need to be doing so at intervals. For example, try to cycle for five minutes at a faster pace, followed by five minutes at a slightly more relaxed tempo and then repeat.
This method is a form of high-intensity interval training—perfect for increasing your VO2 max.
How many times have you stayed up late to watch a movie, knowing you should really be tucked up in bed?
It would appear quite a few of us are guilty of not snoozing enough. Only 52.68 percent of the US population gets seven to 8 hours of sleep per night.
When we lack sleep, we can’t function at our best. Besides feeling tired all day, it affects performance, reduces reaction times and concentration. Not to mention, it can also lead to weight gain and other health issues.
Your fitness levels and cycling, all play a part in sleep quality.
For instance, if you’ve been out all day on your bike, you’re likely to fall asleep faster and sleep deeper—all that physical activity tires you out and your body genuinely needs it.
Plus, as your cycling “journey” progresses, the more fit you’ll become. Which, as experts believe, protects you from sleeping troubles.
No one enjoys feeling under the weather. The common cold, a sore throat or even a bout of influenza can really dent your time in the saddle.
Yet, cycling can be as beneficial as your vitamin C supplement. Experts are firm believers that exercise can act as a natural defense—giving your immune system a pick-me-up.
However, you can have too much of a good thing. Overtraining has the opposite effect—it weakens your immunity.
Boosts Sexual Performance
A lack of a stellar sexual performance can often be associated with your stamina or endurance. It’s what allows you to go the distance, while blood flow creates the “lift” that men need. Cycling can aid both.
As cycling causes your body to work a lot faster and harder, regular participation can increase your staying power during any kind of physical activity—including sex, (yes, its still a form of exercise).
In terms of getting down to business in bed, we’ve seen that cycling aids your circulatory system to work better. Of course, we know blood flow is important for some under-the-sheets action, so pushing yourself in your cycling sessions are sure to please your partner.
The Great Outdoors
Spending time outside is hugely beneficial for your mental health. It’s a combination of the feel-good exercise and helping you to see the bigger picture. Being in the great outdoors allows you to take pleasure in the small things, such as a beautiful sunrise or a woodland trail.
It’s not only the mind that could receive a boost. Studies have shown that spending time outside can help to reduce inflammation and eliminate fatigue.
While cycling indoors in the gym, or taking a spin class can still have its advantages, you’ll have a broader range of benefits of cycling from taking a ride outside.
Cycling Club Camaraderie
Cycling clubs are an excellent way to meet like-minded people. It’s also where you can talk non-stop about your bike or your latest achievements on Strava with someone who isn’t pretending to be interested.
You may meet up weekly or monthly for rides in a group situation. Cycling with others can improve the handling of your bike, making you more safety-aware. Plus, if long rides are your aim, it’s way more fun when you have someone to share it with—you don’t have to be the “lone ranger” all of the time.
The camaraderie of cycling with others, partaking in something positive for your health, can be very beneficial in the long run. You’ll feel empowered by this motivational group of people to push yourself with your cycling goals!
A Clear Mind
The monotonous routine of the working life, mostly indoor, can be a little tough on your mind. It doesn’t give you much freedom to think without any boundaries and clear your mind of daily stresses.
Taking a ride either on an exercise bike or cycling outdoors can give you some time with nothing else to think about. It can help to let go of anxieties and just give your mind a bit of a break.
It Can Make You Happier
Any exercise is said to be very beneficial for your mental health and happiness levels. Why? Because exercise releases endorphins.
Firstly, exercise in any form releases dopamine. This is also called the happy neurotransmitter. Those who suffer from depression tend to have lower levels within their brain. This results in a negative mental state. Feelings such as the lack of motivation and self-worth are common signs.
Research says, those who lead an active lifestyle are happier—particularly during the activity itself. So, if you want to smile more—and nothing puts a bigger grin on my face than heading out for a few miles—get on your bike.
Try starting with two to three cycling sessions a week.
Recent studies have shown that working out helps to relieve anxiety. During and after exercise, your hormone levels fluctuate, which triggers a reduction in stress levels and relieves all that built-up tension.
The mechanics are similar to what makes you feel happy. It pumps up your endorphins, which are your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. These include dopamine, as we talked about above!
After a bad day at the office, I find there’s nothing more satisfying than jumping on my bike and taking away all that tension by powering down on those pedals. The added bonus, you get home faster too.
Intense cycling sessions, whether it be a spin class or in my case, a fast-paced commute, can busy your stress away. It can also calm your mind and rationalize your thoughts, giving you some time to yourself during a ride.
Too many of us suffer from a lack of confidence these days, for a plethora of reasons. More often than not, this can include a lack of body confidence from carrying a few extra unwanted pounds.
As we’ve seen, cycling is an excellent method for weight loss. So if you’re struggling with any excess baggage issues, taking up cycling can help you to shed this fat.
Not only is cycling excellent for fat loss but also muscle tone. When you’re comfortable with your body, your self-esteem will boost and in return, your confidence will grow.
Fun for All the Family
With such busy modern lives, it can be hard to fit in both exercise and quality family time. However, with cycling, the whole “tribe” can get involved in keeping fit and having fun.
It can be a great excuse to get everyone together and set out for a leisurely weekend cycle. You could even round it off with a spot of lunch.
Doing this once a week can help strengthen your family’s bond while strengthening your body.
It Could Make You Smarter
Who doesn’t want to expand their knowledge every now and then?
As we have now learned, cardiovascular exercise (such as cycling) leads to increased blood flow around the body. This is especially important, remembering that oxygenated blood powers our organs.
When you increase the blood flow to your brain, the more oxygen is delivered to your brain cells. All things considered, this can help to make your brain literally work better.
Now we’ve looked at the benefits of cycling that mostly concern ourselves, maybe it’s time to think of Mother Nature. It’s essential to be aware of the effects we have on our planet, and cycling has an extremely positive one.
Fewer Problems With Traffic
In urban environments, it’s safe to say no one likes the traffic that comes with living there. It can be most problematic when you’re trying to get somewhere on time, but the traffic is going against you. This can cause stress, delays and lateness to work.
If you take up cycling as a mode of transport, you can easily avoid the struggles of traffic on your daily commute. Many cities have bike lanes to protect cyclists and allow them to skip the queues that cars must wait in. Who are the real winners now!
If cycling to work sounds like something you might like to take up, take a look at this video below:
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Climate change is defined as the periodic change of Earth’s climate. The results of this shift are devastating for our planet. These include melting polar ice caps, the loss of natural habitats, and desertification. As you can imagine, altering temperatures can also lead to the extinction of species in the animal kingdom.
When you drive a car or even take a bus or train, you are contributing to the unfortunate process of climate change through combustion. This term is the burning of fossil fuels, such as petrol that powers engines.
However, when you ride a bicycle, you completely emit this contribution to your carbon footprint. Your carbon footprint is effectively the amount of carbon that your daily life emits into the atmosphere. This type of emission is one of the root causes of climate change.
As bicycles do not have engines, you can still get around as you usually would but in a way that promotes the health of our planet. What better reason to cycle than to look after our world?
If you are interested in learning a little more about your carbon footprint and how to reduce it, watch this video below:
What’s more, if you’re interested in finding out your CO2 consumption, check out this calculator.
You’ve likely heard of air pollution, the presence of both synthetic and natural substances in the air, but you might not have given much thought to noise pollution.
Noise pollution, such as continuous car honking and engines revving, can be quite detrimental to your health and lifestyle. Particularly if you live in a busy city, waking up to the sound of a very loud main road outside can cause stress from the moment you open your eyes. It can also cause difficulties for those who work from home or in central offices.
One of the key benefits of cycling is that, with more cyclists around, noise pollution can be greatly reduced. It decreases the number of cars, and public transport, leading to a quieter and calmer city life for everyone.
Can Save You Money
Ok, so this won’t benefit the environment, but it’s still one of the benefits of cycling. Whether you’re on a tight budget or looking to save some money for your next vacation adventure, cycling can increase the contents of your savings account.
Public transport, such as buses or the Metro, can become quite expensive when you total up your finances at the end of the month. Equally, filling your car with fuel every week for your commute to work is not so pocket-friendly.
As there is no real solution to work around the costs of fuel or metro tickets, you could be better off investing in a bike long term. Once you’ve purchased, you won’t face daily fees to get to work. Just the occasional chain or tube replacement perhaps!
Benefits of Cycling: Frequently Asked Questions
“Will Cycling Make Me Bulky?”
In short, no.
Cycling will not turn you into the Incredible Hulk-ette. Women are often concerned that taking up regular strenuous exercise such as cycling will make them a little bulkier than they would like. Let’s explore this idea.
To understand building muscle, you must first understand the difference between fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are associated with building large muscles, such as through strength training with heavy weights.
However, cardiovascular workouts and endurance exercise (such as cycling and running) rely on and work slow-twitch muscle fibers. These do not have the same ability to develop in size as the former.
Furthermore, genetics will play its part. Women are not built in the same way that men are. If anything, the benefits of cycling will slim you down and tone you up.
“How Often Should I Cycle To Lose Weight?”
Weight loss requires a caloric deficit, whether this is achieved through your diet, exercise or both. At a healthy rate, if you don’t currently exercise, you’ll want to take up between 30 and 40 minutes of cycling, two to three times a week.
If this sounds tough, then start slowly, cycling at a very comfortable space to get used to it. As your stamina increases, you can build this up to four to five sessions a week.
As well as cycling, you’ll want to incorporate some strategically placed strength training to your workout schedule to tone up and burn extra calories.
“Is Cycling Better Than Running?”
The long-standing debate between cycling and running can, unfortunately, not be answered in one simple sentence. This is because it’s dependent on your own goals and reasons for taking up either exercise, plus your health status!
If you are suffering from lower body joint pain or are slightly older and even suffering from arthritis in your knees, cycling could be a better choice for you. Compared to running, cycling is a lower impact form of cardiovascular exercise. This means it creates less strain on your joints.
On the other hand, running is another excellent form of cardio but is best suited to people who do not suffer from joint or ligament problems.
“Is Cycling Outside Better Than An Exercise Bike?”
Well, this depends on your preference. Both have their pros and cons. Yet, cycling is cycling!
Some prefer to cycle outdoors. The changing scenery and route are all part of the fun. Yet, during the cooler months or not so great weather, it does take some inner strength and determination to go out for a ride.
However, for others, the indoor environment suits. The gym can be great for those who struggle to get motivated, as you’ll see others exercising around you.
With exercise bikes or spin classes, you can also adjust the intensity of the resistance. This means you can work at a higher resistance to sculpt your legs, or work at a lower resistance to get the cardio exercise in!
One drawback of indoor cycling is that it can get monotonous, so you do need to be strict with yourself.
As you can see, it’s safe to say that there are a whole host of benefits of cycling—probably more than you could imagine! You’ll be taking better care of your mind, your body and your environment.
Now it’s time to get the wheels rolling on your cycling journey….