9 Impressive Benefits of Cycling

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Sarah Pledger (M.S., R.D.)

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The health benefits of cycling include muscle toning, improved cardiovascular health, and better blood circulation. It is one of the simplest forms of working out and can be done at a low, moderate or high intensity. It is not only an exercise but also a means of transport in many countries. Cycling helps in incorporating physical activity into your daily life. From children to the elderly, every person can easily choose to cycle for a healthier life!

What is Cycling?

The concept of cycling was invented by Baron Karl von Drais, in the year 1817. What he invented wasn’t exactly the bicycle that we know and use. He invented the walking machine that helped him to walk in the royal gardens faster. This device had wheels but didn’t have any gears, chains, and pedals. Also, he moved ahead by pushing his feet against the ground. With an improvement in this technology, this crude device was eventually transformed into a modern-day bicycle.

Health Benefits of Cycling

The human body requires physical activity for normal functioning. At least thirty minutes of moderate to intense physical activity is very important and is required in order to achieve long-term health. Other than the physical health benefits, there are social and mental health benefits that make cycling an enjoyable activity as well. These health benefits include the following:

Toned Muscles

Cycling is an activity that involves a great deal of pedaling. Usually, it is assumed that this activity helps only in toning the muscles of the calf and thighs, however, cycling is a full-body workout that involves the movement of almost every muscle in the body. The arm muscles are also strengthened because they are required to balance and hold your body up as you cycle. In children, a strong improvement in bone and muscle health has been noticed after regular cycling sessions. There is both increased flexibility of muscles and aerobic fitness boost.

Improved Cardiovascular Function

During cycling, the heart beats faster than usual. This exercising of the heart promotes good health. Studies on middle-aged men showed positive results in terms of cardiovascular function. Compared to sedentary people, those who participated in activities such as cycling, walking, and running displayed improved cardiovascular function.

Diabetes Management

Type-2 diabetes can be controlled by physical activity, which includes cycling. According to a study by Martin Rasmussen and colleagues published in the PLOS Medicine journal, the impact of cycling for commuting and recreation decreases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Increased Energy Levels

Cycling helps increase the body’s stamina and gives a boost to the endurance capacity of a person. Energy levels get higher, resulting in enthusiasm at work and generally higher energy for all normal activities. As you gain energy, strength, cardiovascular ability, and vigor from cycling regularly, this helps increase motivation and energy for trying other kinds of exercises and fitness activities.

A young couple cycling together on the road early in the morning

Stress Management

Bicycle riding can be taken up for reducing stress and having fun. Experts say that playing any kind of sport can reduce stress, but in most cases, playing sports might not be possible for many people. Cycling is equally beneficial as sports in reducing stress and depression. Instead of playing sports, one can spend time riding a bicycle whenever they want without needing to coordinate a group of friends.

Pain Reduction

Cycling has been shown to help with pain management. It is considered as a “releasing” exercise. Releasing exercises play a very important role in alleviating physiological and psychological issues like stress, tension, and pain. Cycling is a widely accepted pain-reduction strategy that is often implemented on children but is just as useful for adults.

Weight Loss

Cycling is an excellent exercise for burning calories. A person cycling with a speed of 10 mph burns 260 calories in an hour. Cycling employs the muscles in the thighs, hamstrings, the core, calves, and buttocks. Regular working out helps a person maintain a lean body structure.

Anticancer Potential

The incidence of diseases, such as cancer, can be reduced significantly by adopting physical activities such as cycling. Studies show that for those people who took up moderate to high physical activities in early and middle ages, had a reduced risk of cancer, compared to the ones that did not.

Another study investigating the relationship between cycling as active commuting and cancer suggested that cycling as a method of commuting can be associated with lower cancer risk.

Relieve Arthritis Symptoms

Cycling has been noted to be one of the best exercises for both preventing and reducing arthritis symptoms. Outdoor cycling and indoor static cycling are both equally beneficial in reducing and preventing arthritis. Muscles in the thighs and lower legs are used while cycling and the muscles contracting and flexing are beneficial to keeping joints mobile and pain-free.

Environmental Impact of Cycling

Cycling is an environment-friendly mode of transportation since it reduces pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases. Thus, it not only promotes good health but also a better environment. Cycling 10 km every day to work can prevent the emission of at least 1.3 tonnes of greenhouses gases annually. This reduces the risk of many fatal diseases and health issues affecting millions of people due to air pollution.

Passenger cars in cities are the biggest source of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, oxides of nitrogen, and hydrocarbons. These harmful gas emissions damage the nervous system and are also responsible for severe respiratory issues. Research says that people who cycle are less prone to the ill-effects of pollution as they tend to breathe in less polluted air. Studies have revealed that every year in Australia, 900 to 2000 early deaths occur due to air pollution. About 900 to 4500 cases of cardiovascular ailments, bronchitis, and other respiratory issues have been reported in Australia every year and that cost around 1.5 to 3.8 billion dollars in medical expenses. It is perhaps the only means of transport that does not cause any such diseases while helping those who are already suffering from such issues.

Apart from air pollution, noise pollution can also be eradicated to a huge extent by cycling. It is a noiseless mode of transport and thus does not create any noise that can adversely affect both young and old. A study conducted in the year 1993 in NSW pointed out that 73% of the population exposed to environmental pollution are prey to noise pollution as well. This shows how much impact noise pollution has on human health as well as on the environment.

Safety Measures

Cycling is certainly a complete physical activity that has a wide range of health benefits that you can enjoy. However, some precautions must be taken before opting for cycling as a regular sport or a mode of transport.

  • It is important to wear well-fitted clothes. Loose fitted clothes may get stuck during cycling and cause serious problems, particularly if you are riding in heavy traffic, urban areas. Be careful of pant legs in particular.
  • Ensure that the bike fits you properly. The seat should come up to your hip bone. Also, your legs should be almost straight at the bottom of the pedal stroke but not completely locked out.
  • Always have plenty of water in hand and drink frequently to make up for the possible dehydration caused due to physical activity.
  • Stretching your muscles is important because it warms up the body and prepares it for the intense physical activity of cycling.
  • Wearing a helmet is perhaps the most important safety measure you need to take. It prevents a head injury in case of an accident. Also, consider wearing appropriate elbow and knee guards for total protection.

Cycling is not just a regular physical activity meant for fitness purposes. It is also a mode of transport and thus allows people to remain fit even when they are going to work, out shopping, or having fun with friends. The use of modern-day transports like cars, motorbikes, and buses definitely makes life faster and easier for everyone, but they are also reducing the lifespan of people. Incorporating cycling as a part of daily life will help change the current scenario of the world by promoting not only human health but also the health of the planet.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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