10 ways cycling improves your physical and mental health

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The prospect of bicycling at this time of year can be daunting. For most of us in the Northern Hemisphere the temperature has dropped, the seasons have changed, and there may even be snow on the ground.

Thankfully, virtual cycling platforms like Zwift can keep us entertained and motivated in the winter, and that’s more important than you might think.

related: 5 Zwift Racing Tips From A Pro

Of course, cycling makes you more aerobically fit, and it’s a great way to connect with friends. But cycling has an even bigger impact on your physical and mental health than that. In this column, we take a look at the top 10 ways cycling can improve your physical and mental health.

1. Cycling is a low-impact exercise that is suitable for people of all ages

As a non-weight-bearing activity, bicycling is one of the safest and most effective forms of exercise for people of all ages. From children to adults and the elderly, you can get the same physical health benefits from bicycling as from weight-bearing exercise like running.

One study found that just a few weeks of non-weight-bearing bicycling helped improve lower-limb strength and power in older adults. Most older adults struggle with running and other weight-bearing activities that can result in a variety of acute or chronic injuries. On the other hand, bicycling carries a lower risk of injury while offering many of the same potential benefits.

However, bicycling, as a non-weight-bearing activity, does not increase bone density, which is especially important for older adults. We recommend that older adults do 1-2 strength training sessions per week to help increase bone density and prevent injury.

2. Cycling helps improve your social life and opportunities

It is hard to imagine a stronger social culture than that of cycling. From cafes to bike shops, to group rides and Wednesday night worlds, there is a pervasive cycling culture that transcends age and ability. Anyone can show up on a group ride, anyone can chat in a coffee shop, and anyone can try their hand at a local tightrope.

There are hundreds and thousands of cycling clubs around the world, and there are more virtual groups nowadays than ever before. When the roads get icy, you can jump on Zwift and join the 25,000 other cyclists who ride across Watopia. In the world of cycling, you’re never alone, and the opportunities to connect with others are endless.

3. Cycling saves time and money

More people are trading in their cars for bikes than ever before, especially as more e-bikes hit the market. Nowadays, you can get 30 miles on a fully loaded cargo e-bike with fenders, rack, lights, and luggage space. Exercising on the go can cut your commute time in half.

Of course, the bikes are pedal operated. And you won’t have to worry about paying for a parking spot, making the train on time, or filling up gas on the way to work. You can use your bike for more than just work. With a cargo e-bike, you can make a complete grocery run without using a car. Many cyclists have already made the switch from car to bike, and the number continues to grow.

4. Cycling lowers the risk of debilitating diseases

There are countless studies that have found that bicycling helps reduce the risk of all kinds of diseases, including heart disease, cancer, heart disease, and mortality. As a cardiovascular exercise, bicycling strengthens your aerobic system as well as the muscles used for pedaling.

Additionally, cycling is linked to other aspects of a healthy lifestyle such as regular exercise, mindful eating and outdoor activity.

5. Cycling improves your mental health

One of the most underrated benefits of cycling is its positive impact on our mental health. Studies have shown that all types of cycling help improve mental health and well-being. This includes road cyclists, e-bike riders, commuters, and more.

Bicycling, regular exercise, and getting outside all stimulate the release of important neurotransmitters such as endorphins, serotonin, and adrenaline. It helps boost our mood no matter the time of day, and puts a smile on our faces when we pull out of the driveway. Many have cited cycling as important to their mental health journey in dealing with depression, anxiety, self-confidence issues, and more.

6. Cycling strengthens your lungs and immune system

As you would expect, exercising your lungs makes them stronger. And bicycling does exactly that. Whether you’re riding at a low-intensity or a high-intensity, you’re breathing harder on the bike than you are sitting at your desk. Bicycling can not only increase your lung capacity, but it is also a great therapeutic tool for people with COPD.

Just as cycling helps reduce the risk of chronic disease, it also helps strengthen your immune system and fight off short-term illnesses. This effect occurs regardless of the intensity of cycling, which is good news for casual cyclists and the elderly. Only low-intensity cycling can help strengthen your immune system.

7. Cycling can help you lose weight

Losing weight is a tricky subject in the world of cycling, but it is one of its main benefits. For people trying to lose weight, cycling is the perfect non-weight-bearing activity to burn calories and especially fat.

Bicycling at varying intensities can burn anywhere from 300 to 1000+ calories per hour. Because it is non-weight-bearing, many cyclists enjoy riding for several hours at a time, which is nearly impossible to do with other activities such as running or hiking. Only experienced runners or climbers can handle several hours of activity without putting themselves at risk of injury.

Of course, there is a healthy balance between cycling and weight loss. You should always fuel your rides and workouts, but you can also work on a low calorie deficit if you’re trying to lose weight. As a rule, a healthy weight loss goal is to lose no more than one pound (0.45 kg) per week.

8. Cycling builds muscles and improves coordination

As you would expect, bicycling builds the muscles it uses. This includes the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves and lower back. Building muscle increases strength and power, and not just on the bike. The act of cycling also improves your coordination and balance, especially if you are a bike racer, mountain biker or cyclocross rider.

9. You can see the world from a bike, a view like no other.

There’s nothing like seeing the world from a bicycle. Often, a car feels too fast and the going feels too slow. You can go whizzing through the countryside in a car, or crawl along nature paths on foot. But when you’re on a bike, you can see and hear more than 100 miles of nature in a single ride.

When you’re on a bike, you can stop at any moment, take pictures at the top of the mountain, and feel the wind in your face as you ride down through the switchbacks. It’s like traveling and being together, and in my mind, it’s a feeling like no other.

10. Cycling improves your sleep and sex life

Sleep is almost like a powerful drug, yet very few people use it to its full potential. Getting good sleep increases your cognition and endurance performance, reduces your risk of injury by up to 65 percent, and lowers your risk of mortality from all causes. Sleep is available to us 24/7, yet many of us don’t get enough sleep.

A recent study showed that cycling and high-intensity exercise can improve deep sleep and overall sleep quality. Thus, the message is twofold: cycling helps you improve your sleep, and sleep helps you improve your cycling. So get out there and start sleeping!

Another benefit of cycling is the improvement in sex life. Regular sex helps us live longer and enjoy life to the fullest. In fact, studies have actually linked sex frequency and quality with a lower risk of cardiovascular events in both men and women.

It makes sense when you think about it because the same muscles are used in cycling and are commonly used during sex. Cycling improves cardiovascular fitness, as well as the strength and endurance of muscles in the hips, thighs, glutes, hamstrings and lower back. You can say the same about other activities.

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Source:

Use of heart rate and RPE to determine bicycle ergometer HIIT in older adults: a feasibility study

Effects of cycling on cognitive function and well-being in older adults

Cycling reduces the incidence of cardiovascular diseases and death: Part 1 – systematic
Review of Cohort Studies with Meta-Analysis

Sleep and athletic performance: effects of sleep deprivation on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise.

Chronic lack of sleep linked to increased sports injuries in teen athletes

Mortality Associated with Short Sleep Duration: Evidence, Possible Mechanisms, and Future

Effects of evening high-intensity exercise on sleep in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Is sex good for your health? A national study on partnered sexuality and cardiovascular risk among older men and women

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