10 ways cycling improves your physical and mental health

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

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

Connected: 5 tips for Zwift races from a pro

Of course, cycling makes you more aerobically fit and is a great way to bond with friends. But cycling has an even bigger impact on your physical and mental health than that. In this column, we’ll review our top 10 ways cycling improves your physical and mental health.

1. Cycling is a low-impact exercise ideal for all ages

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

One study found that just a few weeks of non-weight-bearing cycling helped improve lower limb power and strength in older adults. Most older people struggle with running and other weight-bearing activities that can lead to a variety of acute or chronic injuries. Cycling, on the other hand, presents a much lower risk of injury while providing many of the same potential benefits.

However, cycling, as a non-weight-bearing activity, does not increase bone density, which is particularly important for older people. We recommend that older adults perform 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, cycling has a pervasive culture that transcends age and ability. Anyone can show up for the group ride, anyone can come and chat in the cafe, and anyone can try their hand at the local criterium.

There are hundreds and thousands of cycling clubs around the world, and nowadays there are more virtual groups than ever before. When the roads get icy, you can hop on Zwift and connect with 25,000 other cyclists riding in Watopia. In the world of cycling, you should never be alone and the opportunities to connect with others are endless.

3. Cycling helps save time and money

More people than ever are swapping their cars for bikes, especially as more e-bikes hit the market. Nowadays, you can go 30 miles on a cargo e-bike equipped with fenders, panniers, lights and luggage space. You can cut your travel time in half while exercising on the go.

Of course, bicycles are powered by pedals. And you won’t need to pay for a parking space, catch the train on time or worry about filling up gas on the way to work. You can also use your bike for more than just work. With an electric cargo bike, you can make complete grocery tours without using a car. Many cyclists have already switched from cars to bicycles, and the number continues to grow.

4. Cycling reduces the risk of debilitating diseases

There are countless studies that have found that cycling helps reduce the risk of all kinds of diseases, including heart disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality. As a cardiovascular exercise, cycling strengthens your aerobic system as well as the muscles used to turn the pedals.

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

5. Cycling improves your mental health

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

Cycling, regular exercise and being outdoors stimulate the release of important neurotransmitters such as endorphins, serotonin and adrenaline. It helps lift our spirits no matter the time of day and puts a smile on our face when we pedal out of the driveway. Many people have cited cycling as crucial to their mental health journey in dealing with depression, anxiety, confidence issues and more.

6. Cycling helps strengthen the lungs and immune system

As you would expect, exercising your lungs makes them stronger. And cycling does just that. Whether you ride at a low or high intensity, you breathe harder on the bike than you do sitting at your desk. Not only can cycling increase lung capacity, but it is also a great therapeutic tool for those with COPD.

In the same way that cycling helps to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, it also helps to strengthen the immune system and fight short-term illnesses. This effect occurs regardless of cycling intensity, which is good news for casual cyclists and the elderly. Low-intensity cycling alone can help boost your immune system.

7. Cycling can help you lose weight

Losing weight is a complicated topic in the cycling world, but it’s also one of its main benefits. For people looking to lose weight, cycling is the perfect non-weight bearing activity to burn calories and especially fat.

Cycling can burn anywhere from 300 to 1000+ calories per hour at varying intensities. Because it is weightless, many cyclists like to ride for several hours at a time, which is almost impossible to do with other activities such as running or hiking. Only experienced runners or hikers can handle hours of activity without risking 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 operate in a small calorie deficit if you’re trying to lose weight. As a rule of thumb, a healthy weight loss goal is to lose no more than one pound (0.45 kg) per week.

8. Cycling helps build muscle and improve coordination

As you would expect, cycling 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. Cycling also improves your coordination and balance, especially if you are a cyclist, mountain biker or bicyclist.

9. You can see the world by bike, a perspective like no other.

There’s nothing quite like seeing the world by bike. Often the car seems too fast and the walk too slow. You can fly into the countryside by car or crawl along a nature trail on foot. But when you’re on a bike, you can see and hear over 100 miles of scenery in one 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 on your face as you descend switchbacks. It’s like traveling and living at the same time, and in my mind, it’s a feeling like no other.

10. Cycling helps improve your sleep and sex life

Sleep is almost like a powerful drug, but few people use it to its full potential. Good sleep boosts your cognitive abilities and stamina, reduces your risk of injury by up to 65 percent, and reduces your risk of dying from any cause. Sleep is available to us 24/7, but many of us don’t get enough.

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

Another benefit of cycling is an improved sex life. Regular sex helps us live longer and enjoy life to the fullest. In fact, studies have actually linked the frequency and quality of sex to 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 muscle strength and endurance in the hips, thighs, glutes, hamstrings and lower back. The same can be said for the other activity.

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sources:

Using heart rate and RPE to prescribe exercise bike HIIT in older adults: a feasibility study

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

Cycling is associated with lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and death: Part 1 – systematic
a review of cohort studies with meta-analysis

Sleep and athletic performance: The effects of sleep loss on exercise performance and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise

Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes

Mortality associated with short sleep duration: The evidence, possible mechanisms, and the future

The 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 survey of partner sexuality and cardiovascular risk among older men and women

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