Whether it is for weight loss or to improve your general fitness and wellbeing, there is no doubt of the health benefits of cycling. Whether it be the traditional way outdoors on the open road, or using a static bicycle in the gym for a cycling or “spinning” class, taking up cycling is a fun and enjoyable form of movement that can also lead to many health benefits. By cycling every day, it is possible to tone the body, improve overall fitness, ward off disease and even help you to the excess kilograms in a steady and healthy way.
The reason that cycling is so great for your health is that it is low impact, yet provides a good workout for the major muscle groups and it is easy for people of all ages and levels of fitness to take up. It is also a great sport for improving your strength and stamina and requires just a few hours each week to make an impact on your overall health. Also, cycling is a convenient mode of transport, which means it can easily be slotted into your lifestyle as a way to sneak in extra movement without too much difficulty.
Cycling for weight loss
Exciting for those people looking to shed a few kilos, cycling can kick-start your weight loss efforts through a combination of factors. Firstly, it is a low impact sport which strengthens your hip muscles, hamstrings, glutes and quads, and the stronger these large muscle are, the easier it is for your body to burn fat. Secondly, it raises your metabolic rate, which means that it helps to burn body fat while building muscle mass. Finally, cycling can help you to lose weight by providing a way to burn calories steadily and at a pace that suits your level of fitness. Cycling for just one hour at a steady pace can burn around 300 calories, which adds up to a good amount of calories to burn over the space of a week if you cycle every day.
You will also need to combine cycling with a healthy diet to achieve steady weight loss. Cyclists benefit from having more protein in their diet to keep hunger at bay and to kick start their metabolism before a ride. Don’t skip meals when regularly cycling, and eat a protein rich meal combined with healthy “good” carbohydrates within thirty minutes of completing a ride.
Cycle to avoid cardiovascular disease
In addition to weight loss there are other awesome health benefits. Because cycling is an aerobic activity, this means it is a great way to exercise your cardiovascular health. It requires breathing into your lungs which in turn helps to pump oxygen rich blood through your blood vessels and heart, stimulating these vital organs. By working out your heart and lungs and improving your circulation, it reduces your risk of diseases such as stroke, high blood pressure and heart attack. In fact, one 14-year study of 30,000 people aged 20 to 93 years found that regular cycling protected people from heart disease.
Cycle to ward off diabetes
It is already well known by medical professionals that the rise of type 2 diabetes is caused by a lack of physical activity. What better way to avoid developing diabetes than by cycling for 30 minutes per day. Research has shown that people who cycle daily reduce their risk of developing diabetes by 40 percent.
The prevalence of cancer these days is widespread, yet it is now known by doctors that exercising regularly can reduce the risk factors, especially for colon and breast cancer. Cycling is a specifically good form of exercise for cancer prevention, as shown by a long-term study in which mean who cycled to work, doing 30-minutes of moderate exercise a day, were able to ward off cancer compared with those men who did not.
Cycling improves mental health
Getting on your bike is not just good for your physical health- cycling is also great for your mental health too. A lot of this is to do with the enjoyment that comes from getting outdoors and feeling the wind in your hair as your move your body, which helps to release endorphins. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety as well as conditions such as depression. Bike riding also helps you to get to sleep more quickly and to have better quality sleep by helping to reduce the stress hormone cortisol which prevents deep sleep when it is in your body.
Bone injuries, arthritis and cycling
When it comes to preventing and reducing arthritis, there are few better activities to do than cycling. Because it is not a weight-bearing form of exercise, it has a low impact on joints, while strengthening and flexing the muscles in the thighs and lower legs can be beneficial for preventing arthritis. It also helps to develop good balance and coordination which is ideal for preventing falls that cause fractures.
The great thing about cycling, is that it can be easily integrated into your current lifestyle. Start riding from place to place rather than taking your car. Or set up a stationary bike in your living room, and burn calories while watching your favourite TV show. The ease of being able to cycle in different situations also means you can have plenty of variety in your exercise routine, and many people soon find they become quite addicted to the cycling rush.
You can kick-start your cycling habit at our Bootcamp on our fun cycle day where we visit a local cultural attraction, pass by rice paddy fields and temples and cycle through quaint Thai villages. This day is a great way to get a taste for how energising and relaxing it can be to get on your bike to explore while also keeping fit.
Batty GD, Lee I, 2004, ‘Physical activity and coronary heart disease’, British Medical Journal, vol. 328, pp. 1089–1090.
Proietto J, Baur LA, 2004, ‘Management of obesity’, Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 180, no. 9, pp. 474–480.