There are so many health reasons to get on your bike and start cycling – from slashing your risk of cancer and heart disease, to losing weight, boosting your immune system and toning your muscles. Cycling even has anti-ageing benefits, so there’s no reason to stay out of the saddle!
1. Cycling protects your joints
If you’re a runner, you might like to mix things up with a bike ride. Cycling isn’t a weight-bearing exercise and the smooth action is easy on joints, so compared to running, injury rates are lower. A study by the Appalachian State University in the US found that long-distance runners suffered over a third more muscle damage than cyclists.
2. Cycling builds muscle
If you’re not physically active, you’ll lose three to five per cent of your muscle mass every decade from the age of 30, lessening strength and mobility as well as lowering your metabolism, but cycling is a great way to keep up your muscle mass. It is
especially good at working the biggest muscles in your body, in your legs and bum, so you look more toned.
3. Stay protected from air pollution on your bike
You might think cycling – especially on busy roads – would mean detrimental effects from pollution, but it’s not so clear cut. A study by the Healthy Air Campaign in 2014 fitted air pollution detectors to a driver, a bus passenger, a walker and a cyclist in central London. The cyclist experienced the lowest pollution levels – a fifth of that experienced by the driver.
4. How many calories does cycling burn? (A lot!)
Looking to lose weight? A leisurely ride will burn 400 calories an hour, while a full effort session can torch up to 1,000! If you’re eating a healthy diet, a cycling habit – even if it’s only a leisurely ride – could mean you start to see the weight disappearing. An American study of more than 18,000 women over 16 years found that those who cycled for as little as five minutes a day still gained less weight than those who didn’t.
5. Cycling cuts your risk of cancer and heart disease
If this isn’t persuasive, we don’t know what is! A University of Glasgow study that looked at more than 260,000 individuals over five years, found that cycling to work could halve a rider’s risk of heart disease or cancer.
6. Lower stress levels on your bike
If you can commute to work by bike, your whole day could be given a lift. A Canadian study revealed that cyclists showed significantly lower stress levels within the first 45 minutes of work than those who came in by car.
7. Cycling makes you live longer
Not only does cycling halve your risk of cancer, but it turns out that cyclists are 15% less likely to die from any cause than non-riders. A study printed in the British Journal of Sports Medicine compare the benefits of six sports including running, swimming, football and cycling, and found that those riding at a lower effort had an even greater reduction in the chance of premature death than speedy riders!
8. Cycling helps your brain stay active
Struggling to finish that crossword? Get out on your bike and you’ll enjoy improvements to your mind as well as your body. A study in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism found cyclists experienced a 28% increase in blood flow to the brain during exercise and stayed high afterwards too. A boost in blood flow to the brain can improve your memory, focus and even you mood, and protect you for years to come.
9. Cycling has anti-ageing effects!
A study for the journal Aging Cell found bikers in their 50s, 60s and 70s preserved their muscle mass and strength as they aged, and continued to produce as many immune cells as people in their 20s!
10. Cycling helps insomnia
If you’re struggling to get decent shut-eye, a spin on your bike could be the answer. Research from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that the time taken for insomniacs to fall asleep was halved when they biked for 20-30 minutes every other day. They slept for an extra hour too.
11. Cycling keeps commuters fit
Ditch the car in favour of your bike and you’ll reap the benefits all day long. According to an American survey, the average bike commuter loses 13lbs in their first year of cycling alone!