10 ways cycling improves your physical and mental health

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, temperatures have dropped, seasons have changed, and there may even be snow on the ground.

Luckily, 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 running 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’ll go over our top 10 ways cycling improves your physical and mental health.

1. Cycling is a perfect low-impact exercise 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 weight-bearing exercises like running.

One study found that just a few weeks of unweighted cycling helped improve lower extremity power and strength in older adults. Most seniors have difficulty running and other weight-bearing activities, which can lead to a variety of acute or chronic injuries. Cycling, on the other hand, has a much lower risk of injury while offering many of the same potential benefits.

However, cycling, as a non-weight-bearing activity, does not increase bone density, which is especially important for older people. We recommend seniors 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’s hard to imagine a social culture stronger than that of cycling. From cafes and bike shops to group rides and Wednesday night worlds, cycling has a widespread culture that transcends age and ability. Anyone can show up for the group ride, anyone can come and chat at the cafe, and anyone can try their hand at the local criterium.

There are hundreds and thousands of cycling clubs around the world, and these days there are more virtual groups than ever. When the roads turn icy, you can hop on Zwift and connect with 25,000 other cyclists who ride Watopia. In the world of cycling, you never have to be alone and the opportunities to connect with others are endless.

3. Cycling saves time and money

More than ever, people are swapping their car for a bike, especially as more e-bikes hit the market. These days, you can go 30 miles on a cargo e-bike complete with fenders, racks, lights, and luggage space. You can cut your commute time in half, while exercising along the way.

Of course, the bikes are pedal-operated. And you won’t need to pay for parking, catch the train on time, or worry about refueling on the way to work. You can also use your bike for more than work. With an e-cargo bike, you can complete errands without using a car. Many cyclists have already switched from cars to bicycles, and the number continues to grow.

4. Cycling reduces your risk of debilitating diseases

There are countless studies that have shown that cycling helps reduce the risk of all kinds of diseases, including heart disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all causes of death. As a cardiovascular exercise, cycling strengthens your aerobic system as well as the muscles used to pedal.

Additionally, cycling is associated with 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 have shown that all types of cycling help improve mental health and well-being. This includes road cyclists, e-bike users, commuters, etc.

Cycling, regular exercise and going outside all stimulate the release of crucial neurotransmitters such as endorphins, serotonin and adrenaline. It helps lift our mood no matter what time of day, and puts a smile on our face as we pedal out of the driveway. Many people have cited cycling as essential to their mental health journey to deal with depression, anxiety, trust issues, and more.

6. Cycling helps strengthen your lungs and immune system

As you’d expect, exercising your lungs makes them stronger. And cycling does just that. Whether you’re riding at low or high intensity, you breathe harder on the bike than when you’re sitting at your desk. Not only can cycling increase your lung capacity, but it’s also a great therapy tool for people with COPD.

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

7. Cycling can help you lose weight

Weight loss is a touchy subject in the world of cycling, but it’s also one of its main benefits. For people with weight to lose, cycling is the perfect weightless activity to burn calories and especially fat.

Cycling can burn anywhere from 300 to over 1000 calories per hour at varying intensities. Because it is not weight-carrying, many cyclists like to ride for several hours at a time, which is nearly impossible to do with other activities such as running or hiking. Only experienced runners or hikers can handle a multi-hour activity without putting themselves at risk of injury.

Of course, there is a healthy balance between cycling and losing weight. You still need to fuel your rides and workouts, but you can also operate with a small calorie deficit if you’re trying to lose weight. As a general rule, 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 strengthens the muscles it uses. This includes quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and lower back. Building muscle increases strength and power, and more than on the bike. Cycling also improves your coordination and balance, especially if you are a road cyclist, mountain biker or cyclo-cross rider.

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

There’s nothing like seeing the world by bike. Often a car seems too fast and a walk seems too slow. You can fly through 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 nature in a single ride.

When you’re on your bike, you can stop at any time, take photos at the top of the mountain, and feel the wind on your face as you descend into the switchbacks. It’s like traveling and living simultaneously, 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 improves your cognitive and endurance performance, reduces your risk of injury by up to 65%, and lowers your risk of all-cause mortality. Sleep is available 24/7, but many of us don’t get enough of it.

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

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

This makes sense when you think about it, because the same muscles are used in cycling and generally 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 could be said of the other activity.



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

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

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

Chronic lack of sleep is associated with an increase in 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 health? A national study of partnered sex and cardiovascular risk in older men and women

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