With each New Year comes a multitude of New Year’s resolutions. Over 90% of those resolutions, involve some sort of plan towards exercising for health; however, most people fail to realize their goals over the course of the ensuing year. Most of their problems center around a lack of information on how to begin an exercise program. We will try to address that issue by taking an in-depth look at the benefits of cycling.
What are the Benefits of Riding a Bike?
I started out my exercise program as an endurance walker and slowly became a runner. Several minor joint injuries, led me to consider the benefits of cycling. A friend invited me to go on a short bike tour and I fell in love with the sport, right away.
There was something about the speed, and freedom that could be found riding on two wheels. The push of adrenaline, and the pumping of both the heart and legs, to overcome large hills, was exhilarating.
For optimum health you need to be physically active. Regular exercise can prevent a whole slew of conditions and diseases. Whether you suffer from obesity, heart disease, or arthritis, regular exercise is almost always prescribed by a doctor as one of the ways to manage each of these problems.
Riding a bicycle is one of the best ways to get that prescribed exercise and reduce the number of health problems associated with today’s sedentary lifestyles. No matter your health level, or age, cycling provides a low-impact, scalable, exercise program, that is enjoyable.
The cost of a bike is a lot less than that of other exercise equipment, and your workout can often take on the form of a quick ride to the local store, or a jaunt through the park on a beautiful summer day. Over one billion people ride bicycles each day whether for transportation, recreation, or as a sport.
Is Riding a Bike Good Exercise?
Cycling is a great way to cross-train, whether you are healthy or you are avoiding the aggravation of an existing injury. Riding a bike is a non-impact sport, that has great aerobic benefits. One of the benefits of cycling is that you can do several different types of workouts with one piece of equipment. Suppose you want to build strength; ride uphill using one of the higher gears.
Try executing short sprints while holding yourself above the the saddle. Your heart rate will increase, and so will your speed. Long, steady rides, on the bike help to build up endurance. All of the different types of exercises used by runners as training tools, can be translated to a bike workout.
The greatest benefits of biking over running is that there is no impact. Recovery time from riding a bike is significantly less than that of comparable run.
The most obvious of perks from a daily bike ride, is the burning of calories. Say goodbye to those extra pounds, hanging around your middle. Whether you are commuting, pedaling through the park, or racing down a mountain, an hour of biking burns upwards of 300 calories. Suppose you ride 40 minutes twice a week, you will burn over 3000 extra calories, or a pound of fat, each month. Over time, those disappearing pounds can become pretty noticeable.
The burning of fat is further enhanced by the buildup of muscle. Although cyclists are known for their great looking legs, cycling actually tones the entire body. Core muscles are engaged during the pedaling process, which results in sculpted arms and toned abdominal muscles. Be assured, that over time, you will look leaner and more fit, than you did before you started biking.
How Can You Get Started Cycling?
The best way to get started in cycling would be to borrow or rent a bike and take it out for the day. See if you like it. If you don’t have access to a bike, sign-up for a local “spin” class at a nearby gym. You don’t have to be out on the road in order to enjoy the benefits of bicycling. Stationary bikes are great ways to enjoy biking indoors.
You reap the cycling benefits no matter what type of bike you ride, but the one that promises the most versatile workout, is the mountain bike.
What is the Difference Between Mountain Bikes and Other Bikes?
A road bike is what most people consider a traditional bike. It is lightweight, built for everyday use, and usually only has three, five, or ten speeds. They are only meant to be ridden on paved roads. The benefits of cycling on a road bike are many, but generally focus on aerobics.
A tri-bike is a specific bike used for triathlons, and is configured differently than a road bike. This type of bike is built for speed, and is used for long distance riding. The benefits of cycling on a triathlon bike include a buildup of endurance in the leg muscles. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise takes place.
A mountain bike is meant for riding dirt trails, and off-road excursions. On a mountain bike, you will experience steep hills, rugged terrain, varied speeds, jumps, endurance riding, and a whole lot of pedaling. Unlike riding on smooth, flat, paved roads, mountain bike riders do very little coasting. One of the greatest benefits of cycling with a mountain bike, is that the type of workout varies constantly, and a greater number of muscle groups are worked over the entire body.
What type of Bike Workout is Best?
The answer to that question lies in the motivation behind your workout. Cycling helps runners both in their recovery after a run, and with the benefits of cross-training. One of the interesting benefits of bike riding that runners can take advantage of, is the flushing of their leg muscles.
A quick spin on the bike has no impact, and moves blood through the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles. This also helps repair damage to the muscles and helps in the quicker healing of certain types of injuries, incurred while running.
If you are riding your bike, as your primary source of training, then you might want to try this workout:
- Start with a short warm up. Pedal steadily with light intensity for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Push yourself with 10 x 1 minute hard sprints, giving it everything you have.
- Rest for 2 minutes with a low-intensity, easy ride between each of your 1 min sprints. Do not stop the bike during the 45 min workout.
This challenging workout, spikes your heart rate to maximum levels and forces a fast cadence. Research seems to show that interval training has the greatest overall health benefits.
Can Biking Improve Brain Function?
Yes, it can! The brain is made up of both grey and white matter. The white matter connects different regions of the brain. When this connectivity is broken, people suffer from all sorts of disorders. Studies with schizophrenic patients have shown that six months of regular bike riding increased the amount of white matter found in the brain.
Exercise also increases the amount of a certain protein, called BDNF, that builds neurons in the brain. Three months of regular biking exercise by patients with Type 2 diabetes showed higher levels of this protein.
Blood flow is increased to the brain with exercise, which supplies that organ with a steady stream of oxygen and nutrients. This is particularly important as people age, in order to keep their minds sharp.
The benefits of cycling on brain function cannot be denied. Everyone should spend some time on their bike each week, just for this reason alone.
In Summary: The Benefits of Cycling
Without a doubt, riding your bike as a means of exercise cannot be disputed. There are other economical benefits, that we didn’t even touch on in this article. For the most part, you can consider the main health benefits of riding to be as follows:
- Aerobic exercise, resulting in a stronger cardiovascular system
- Greater muscle strength over the entire body
- Little to no impact on joints
- Quicker repair of injuries incurred by runners
- A sense of well-being, and a reduction in stress levels
- A reduction in body fat levels
- A leaner, better looking body
- The prevention or management of certain diseases
The best thing you can do, is grab a bike, hit the trails, and pedal your way to optimum health. Even if it’s just a quick ride around the block with your kids, get off the couch and enjoy some time outdoors. The result will be a greater sense of well-being, a fitter body, and a better outlook on life.
Without too much investment, you can enjoy the benefits of cycling around town and across the country. So, do it! Get your bike and hit the trails. You won’t regret it for a moment.