Health Benefits of Cycling: What Does the Research Say?

You probably love the idea of cycling but you don’t have any motivation to push for a ride other than looking cool on a bike. Not enough, right?

Well, let me give you some advice — cycling can make you healthier. As to how — you’ll know if you continue reading my list of ten cycling health benefits below.

Let’s get you pedaling.

Why Cycling Is Excellent For Building Your Overall Health

There are many ways to build up your overall health, but not all of them are efficient or fun. Cycling, however, offers you exhilarating reasons to give it a try.

Easy

Cycling is relatively easy compared to other forms of exercise. Even a child can go for a ride, and hence, is able to bike even before he starts to walk. (Well, of course, he has to start off with training wheels.)

Low Impact

Low-impact means it causes less stress and injury to your muscles. Cycling is a low-impact exercise, as it isn’t too heavy to perform. You can even do it on a daily basis without causing problems or taxing your body.

Fun

It’s leisurely. You’d almost always forget that you’ve already been exercising while you’re “just” cycling. And, it’d be fun to do it with friends and family. If you prefer, you can also enjoy it alone during your free “me” time.

Time-Efficient

You can exercise on your way to work or to a grocery store by cycling. You can save the time you need to commute to the gym by commuting with a bike and exercising that way instead.

Can Be Intensified

With cycling, you choose your level of intensity. You can take it slow and enjoy early morning rides. You may also do it faster while road-racing with your buddies. Or, you can step up to pro-level and hop on for an uphill or downhill adventure.

10 Health Benefits of Cycling

Aside from being an attractive form of exercise, cycling can impact your health in particular ways that you may not have realized or known before.

1. Beats Your Mood Disorders

Feelings impact how you move. If you feel sad, you move sluggishly. If you’re excited or anxious, you rush. Recent studies suggest, however, that this connection between the mind and the body is a two-way street. It turns out that even simple movements and exercises can impact the way you feel about yourself.

In one research, it was found that cycling can have immediate positive impacts on an individual’s affective and cognitive well-being. This means that biking can boost both your emotional and mental health.

Daily commutes can even beat your mood swings. Those routine rides, no matter how casually done, can increase a brain protein called BDNF, which in turn helps your nerve fibers grow healthier.

In short, cycling can make you happier.

2. Reduces Stress and Increases Brain Power

Let’s say you’re both mentally and physically taxed. You’re too busy and you don’t know what else to do. Obviously, you’re stressed, and stress is a killer.

Instead of drinking or sleeping your way through the overwhelming day, go out and ride your bike. The more you think about your loads of work, the more stress hormones build up within your body. By exercising outside, you can stifle that stress buildup.

When you hop on a bicycle and begin cycling — even leisurely — your breathing deepens and your muscles start to feel relieved from the tension.

Also, by refocusing your mind to the direction where you’re headed while you’re on a rider mode, you’re relieving your brain of the factors that had previously stressed it out.

This renewed mental focus, in turn, allows your brain to power up later. You’ll notice the positive change in your brainpower as you sit down to face your tasks again.

3. Promotes Weight Loss

In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers have concluded that cycling to and from work can help you lose fat mass just as fast and effectively as exercising in a fitness gym.

This sounds like a piece of really good news, as it strips you of any more “good” excuses for not exercising.

Many office workers who are stuck in traffic do not have the extra time to go to the gym. Now, instead of sitting in a cab or bus, these sedentary individuals can hop on a bicycle and take some weight off those bellies and thighs.

But in order to really lose weight effectively, you need to burn calories more than you consume.

Biking, in fact, burns around 400 to 1000 calories per hour, depending on your weight and how intense your ride is. So take note of these numbers and watch how you eat.

When commuting on a bicycle during the weekdays, you can compensate regularity for a compromise in intensity (you don’t want to be too sweaty at work). And then on the weekends, you can go for a faster, longer or more uphill ride.

4. Reduces The Risk of Heart Disease

A study conducted by the University of Glasgow found that cycling to work can reduce the risks of getting major illnesses such as heart disease to half.

Since cycling raises your heart rate, it allows your cardiovascular muscles to exercise and strengthen. It can help those heart muscles become more efficient in pumping blood throughout your body.

With stronger muscles, your heart can push out more blood every time it beats. This allows your heart to beat slower and thus keep your blood pressure normal.

With a regular cycling schedule — even just half an hour of biking weekly — you can already improve your blood circulation, reduce blood pressure, and lower your cholesterol levels.

Again, the results can even be better if you’re a daily bicycle commuter.

5. Cuts Down Cancer Risk

Cancer risk has been shown to increase as you gain more weight — a link that is known as a dose-response relationship. As I mentioned earlier, cycling burns calories and limits your chance of being overweight. Thus, by extension, cycling also helps in reducing the risks of developing cancer.

Even the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) agrees. This group of world-renowned experts has assessed the “cancer-preventive effects of the absence of excess body fatness.”

It turns out that when you intentionally put in those hours on your bike and burn more fat, you’re also getting rid of many abnormalities associated with obesity. And when you get rid of excess weight, you’ll eventually cut that strong obesity-cancer relation.

The said scientists published their assessments in The New England Journal of Medicine and concluded that without excess body fat, one’s risk of most cancers is lowered.

So, ride over those cancer risk factors away.

6. Promotes Muscle Building and Flexibility

Cycling is a form of exercise that has an element of resistance in it. This means that biking does not only burn fat; it also builds muscle and bone.

With cycling, your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves are strengthened and become more developed. You get to have increased joint mobility, and your posture, coordination, and response time are all improved.

But cycling doesn’t just shape up those obvious physical points. It allows the involvement of your entire body — even of your internal organ systems.

I’ve pointed out earlier, cycling strengthens your heart muscles. But not just that. As an aerobic exercise, it also stimulates the contraction of your intestinal muscles and gets your lungs working harder, and later, even more efficiently.

7. Encourages Healthier Eating Habits

Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, cycling encourages you to maintain better habits — including healthier eating.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that voluntary adoption of an exercise routine can naturally improve one’s fruit and vegetable consumption.

The phenomenon occurs because of what’s called the “transfer effect.” The effect takes place when the act of learning new skills or attitudes in one behavior — in this case, exercising  — passes on or “transfers” to a second behavior, i.e., eating.

The said research found a linear relationship between exercising and eating fruits and vegetables. That is, the more you exercise, the more you tend to eat these healthy foods.

Interesting.

When you come to think of the transfer effect, you’ll realize that your body has a way of supporting itself. When you start treading on the right path towards better health, your cravings seem to cooperate.

Your mind takes a rewiring, too, and you start thinking about better ways to further speed up that ride, endure one or two miles more, and take better control of that downhill slope.

And what better way is there than to get yourself powered by micronutrient and phytochemical-rich plants?

8. Makes You Sleep Better

In order to sleep faster, deeper, and better, your body needs to feel that it needs that kind of sleep in the first place. In other words, it has to feel tired.

This is one of the most logical reasons why it’s so much easier to doze off after you’ve cleaned up your house and garage all day. Or in any other way you’ve expended your physical energy.

Simply put, physical exercise triggers a deeper sleep. Now, it even gets better.

A study conducted by Japanese researchers shows that the sleep quality of insomnia patients can improve through exercise — without notable adverse effects. 

So those who suffer from sleep disorders can finally switch to a habit of cycling with greater confidence.

If you’re one of these people and you’re struggling to rest at night, go for a ride outdoors. When you expose yourself to daylight, you can reset your circadian rhythm and rid yourself of the stress hormone cortisol that keeps you from sleeping.

9. Improves Your Sex Life

Further research is still needed to understand the mechanisms leading to cycling-related sexual dysfunction. Evidence, however, is already growing towards the benefits of cycling for your sex life.

In two separate studies for men and women, the Americal Urological Association has concluded that cycling could actually be good for sexual performance.

Both male and female cyclists had higher scores in their sexual function tests compared to their non-cycling counterparts. These tests measured factors like arousal and satisfaction and were self-scored.

Apparently, the preliminary data shows how cyclists have — at least marginally — a better sex life than non-cyclists.

10. Adds To Your Years

Given those nine ways of how cycling can benefit your health, you’re probably pretty convinced about taking a ride this Sunday. But wait — there’s more.

Cycling does not only add life to years; it can also add years to your life, literally.

One group of researchers has uncovered and investigated the biopsied muscle tissues of 90 riders. They wanted to check the muscles of riders in their 70s and compare them to those in their 50s. If the former resembled the latter, this means that the riders’ cycling activity has somehow countered the muscular decline expected with aging.

At about the same time, another group studied the immune system of riders, comparing their bloodwork with that of healthy young adults and sedentary elders.

Interestingly enough, both studies have found that older cyclists are in better shape than most of us. In fact, they are “biologically younger.”

Across the decades, the riders’ muscles have retained their fiber composition, size, and other good health markers. Even if they were aging in years, these riders still possessed high levels of immune cells — keeping them healthy against infections.

In short, cycling can help you live longer. (Just be careful with road accidents!)

Boost Your Health by Cycling

Now that you’ve seen all the positive health impacts that cycling offers, wouldn’t it be worth a try?

I bet you’re convinced.

Just remember to keep yourself safe while on the road. And if, in any case, you find yourself pedaling backward — again — try to recall what you’ve just learned here.

Cycling boosts your cardiovascular, respiratory, muscular, and immune system health. Beats your fatigue. And uplifts your mood.

So just keep your ultimate lifestyle goals in mind.

Because if you’re not too motivated to bike, cycling itself can motivate you.

Perry
Perry
Hello, my names Perry and I've been a freelance writer for the past 5 years and a cycling enthusiastic since I can remember. I love the road, but my main passion is mountain biking.