Every exercise workout causes changes in the body, and most of the time it’s for the greater good. Why most of the time? Because that little margin that can make good results into bad ones is the wrong choices we make when following an exercise plan.
The workout programs we choose depend on our goals. Whether it is to gain muscle mass, lose weight, increase flexibility, or improve overall physical fitness, we all look for the best program that will lead us to that goal. In the long run, the ultimate goal is to be fitter and healthier.
Starting on your road to health and fitness, you might be lured to start in the gym with all the available professional trainers, complex equipment, varied training programs, and so on that they can offer. But this shouldn’t always be the case. I’m not saying starting in the gym is bad; it’s just that the “gym” is not your only option.
There are plenty of ways to start and get that healthier and fitter body you wish to have. Have you considered riding a bike and pedaling your way to your health and fitness goal?
Let me re-introduce you to cycling both as an exercise and a recreation and let’s look at its main health benefits.
Good for the heart
Cycling is an aerobic exercise that improves cardiovascular fitness. Regular cycling keeps the heart and lungs healthier and it improves blood circulation in the body. It also strengthens the heart muscles lowering the resting heart rate. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that the risk for developing cardiovascular illness is lower for people who bike regularly whether for workouts or for recreation purposes.
Similar other studies have been conducted showing that regular cycling can potentially lower the risks of heart disease. Cycling for 20 miles per week can reduce one’s risk for heart disease by about 50% compared to those who have no exercise at all, as per the British Medical Association.
Cycling outdoors exposes you to sunlight. Exposure to sunlight helps to keep your body clock on sync. Sunlight affects the circadian rhythm which regulates many physiologic processes, such as giving us the cue when to sleep and rise.
A morning ride can keep you energetic the whole day too, helping you get some quality sleep when you retire for the night.
Pushing the pedals is a form of resistance activity. Resistance activities increases bone density contributing to a better bone health. Cycling is also a non-weight bearing exercise which means it’s easy on the bones and joints, reducing the risk for injury.
Cycling outside and being exposed to sunlight also helps the body produce vitamin K which is essential in building strong bones. Not only will you enjoy the scenery but you’ll also help in keeping your bones healthy.
Cycling is a great exercise to lose those extra pounds while keeping it easy for your joints and bones. Depending on the workout intensity and the weight of the cyclist, one can approximately burn 200-500 calories per hour. Performing high intensity cycling workouts can also provide a post-workout burn, which means you continue to lose fats even after the workout.
Some gyms also offer “spinning” classes. Spinning is a form of indoor cycling—getting on a stationary bike and participating in a fat-burning routine.
Build and tone muscles
Cycling involves large skeletal muscles in a rhythmic movement pattern. It may not be designed for muscle hypertrophy but it does build and tone muscles in the thighs, legs, and pelvic region.
The abdominal muscles and arm muscles are used to keep the balance. Arm and shoulder muscles are used to hold and steer the handlebars.
Regular cycling will help to strengthen and build muscles on these areas.
Normal bowel movement
Cycling is an aerobic exercise that increases heart rate and respiratory rate. The increase in heart rate and breathing stimulates intestinal muscle contraction.
Some people may also have difficulty with their bowel movement. Cycling keeps you physically active which can help to decrease digestion time in the large intestine. What does this mean? Water from food intake is reabsorbed in the body once it passes through the large intestine, decreasing the time it takes to move through the large intestine makes the stools softer and easier to pass.
Boost your brain power
Several studies had linked exercises to increased brain health. Doing regular exercises increases blood flow to the brain which helps to improve brain tissue health. Will you get the same benefits from cycling? YES.
One study titled “Changes in cerebral blood flow during steady-state cycling exercise: a study using oxygen-15-labeled water with PET” was conducted to measure changes in cerebral blood flow during a moderate, steady state cycling exercise. In this study, it was found that cerebral blood flow does increase during exercise especially when transitioning from rest to a period of activity.
Several other studies have also been conducted to measure the effect of cycling in improving cognitive function in patients suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
Cycling is a great form of exercise, not only physically but also mentally. Aside from these health benefits, cycling can also help combat stress and improve one’s mood. Performing a light to moderate exercise stimulates the body to release endorphins. Endorphins are feel-good hormones that help to counter stress and make you feel happy.
Cycling your way to fitness is a very compelling option. You get both physical and mental workout while riding your bike. Plus it can take you to places; convenient and friendly to the environment.
Cycling is also a great recreational activity to enjoy with your family and friends—think of socializing while exercising. You can continue to work out while enjoying quality time with your significant others. What more can you ask for?
Johnny Anderson is the founder of Cyclistblog.net, where you can find all the articles about cycling such as the guides to help you identify the best bike from the market, the essential features, and tips for you to use the bike in the most effective way.