Fall is a great time to venture out on your bike. The crisp, cool air is the perfect companion for a two-wheel adventure. Whether you are riding in your neighbourhood, on a local trail, or even sweating it out on a stationary bike, every kilometre spent biking (or cycling) does wonders for the environment while delivering valuable health and wellness benefits.
Canadians working full-time spend almost 70% of their waking hours sitting, reclining, or lying down. Studies are now revealing that too much sitting can increase your chance of early death. Cycling is a great way to offset the negative impacts of our increasingly sedentary culture. It is a fun and socially oriented way to get active, helping to shape a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally.
There are many benefits to cycling:
- It’s perfect for all ages and skill levels, making it a family-friendly activity
- It uses all major muscle groups
- You can choose the intensity of your workout
- It’s a fun way to get fit
- It’s an environmentally friendly way to get around
Like any cardiovascular activity, cycling makes the heart stronger and more efficient during exercise and at rest. If that isn’t reason enough, here are five significant health and wellness benefits of cycling.
Unlike high-impact activities like running, cycling is low-impact, lessening the risk of injury, so you’re not just saving your knees when you choose to cycle. Studies found that running caused substantially more muscle damage, soreness, and inflammation compared to cycling. So, if you have joint problems or overall stiffness, especially in your lower body, getting on a bike is a great way to stay active without exerting too much stress on these problem areas.
A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that exercise is a crucial contributor to better sleep. However, exercise doesn’t just help with sleeping but also your overall energy level during your waking hours. Over 75% of active participants reported good or very good quality sleep, compared to just 56% of non-exercisers. The study found that people who don’t train regularly tend to be drowsier during the day and feel less rested when they wake up.
If you are looking to improve your sleep quality and feel more energetic throughout the day, just a few hours of gentle cycling per week can make a difference. Start with shorter routes around your neighbourhood and work towards using your bike for errands in place of your car. Saving the planet and enjoying a more restful sleep? Now that’s a win-win!
The benefits of cycling are not purely physical; it is great for the brain too! When you pedal (whether indoors or outdoors), you increase the amount of blood flowing through the body and the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which helps your brain perform better.
You’ve probably heard of a runner’s high; well, there’s a cyclist’s high too! After a ride, you’ll experience a spike in neurochemicals such as serotonin and dopamine, powerful mood-boosting hormones.
As well as a positive brain boost, cycling also gives you a sense of achieving something new, particularly if you’re just stepping into the two-wheeled world. Maybe you haven’t been on your bike in years and feel immensely proud of a 5-kilometre trip around your neighbourhood. Perhaps you kept up with your nephew on the mountain bike trail. These little accomplishments help build your self-esteem, which is a fundamental component of your overall mental and emotional wellness.
It’s no secret that cycling helps you burn calories and build muscle, an essential recipe for physical wellness. Keeping a bike upright requires balance, coordination, and a heck of a lot of effort from your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, back, and abdominals.
Strong abdominals and back muscles support your spine, increase stability, and build your core strength, improving comfort while cycling and your overall posture and balance. This added strength and balance may help prevent a fall or fracture, which is welcome news for older riders.
Researchers at the University of Georgia found that low-intensity exercise, like biking, can decrease fatigue by 65% while increasing energy levels by 20%. It seems counter-intuitive, but regular exercise does not leave us exhausted from the exertion; it energizes us!
By building a regular cycling routine, you will see improvement in your aerobic capacity, further increasing your energy levels.
Get Out and Ride!
One of the best parts about cycling is its versatility; cycling truly is for everyone. It is easy to vary your intensity, making it suitable for all ages and fitness levels. With bike-sharing platforms popping up in most urban centres (like Bike Share or BIXI), you don’t even have to own your bike to enjoy the incredible benefits of cycling.
Are you looking for an enjoyable way to stay healthy and in touch with the world around you? Keen to give the car a rest and try out a new (more eco-friendly) mode of transportation? Are you looking for a social, family-friendly way to enjoy the outdoors? Cycling fits the bill! So, pump up those tires, grab your helmet and some company, and hit the road.