As experts and doctors say at every opportunity: being physically active is key to a healthy and happy life. Almost all types of exercise contribute to your life in different ways. However, cycling is arguably one of the healthiest and most fun forms of exercise.
If you are regularly cycling, this article – which is about the benefits of cycling – will further motivate you to keep maintaining this healthy habit.
However, if riding a bike isn’t a part of your life, the benefits of cycling presented in this article may urge you to get into action and jump on your saddle.
Before diving into the evidence-based benefits of cycling, let’s glance at some facts about cycling.
1– It possible to fit approximately 15 bicycles in the same space that one car occupies (1).
2- Almost all the major muscle groups work while riding (2).
3- The number of bicycles in the world is twice the number of cars (1).
5- People of almost all ages can ride a bike.
6- As they say “once you learn cycling, you never forget it”.
7- The cost of a bike including purchasing and maintaining is about 1% of the cost of a car’s expenses (4).
8- It is estimated that bicycles save around 240 gallons of fuel every year (1).
Evidence-Based Benefits of Cycling
In this section, we are going to look at the evidence-based health benefits of cycling. Please note that cycling is not only beneficial for your health but it also protects the environment.
Without further ado, let’s examine these health benefits one by one.
1-Decreased Stress Levels
Although cycling is a physical exercise, your mental health can also get a significant benefit from it. This is mainly about cycling’s stress-lowering effect.
Especially, modern city life leads more and more people to mental problems around the world. As per a report; living in a city is linked to 40% more risk of depression, 20% of more risk anxiety and two times more loneliness and isolation (5).
If you live in a big city and deal with problems like stress or depression, cycling may help you overcome these problems.
A cross-sectional study suggests bicycle commuters have lower levels of stress than non-bicycle commuters (6).
To better cope with the daily problems of stressful city life, mount on your bicycle and ride for at least 15 minutes every day. This will help you clear your mind thus appeasing your nerves.
2- Supports the Immune System
The other way cycling supports the immune system is related to its stress-lowering effect. Bear in mind stress can impede the immune system’s effectiveness against disease-causing pathogens.
Cycle regularly to keep your immune system strong.
3- Helps Weight Loss
Saying that cycling alone is enough to lose too much weight might be misleading if other key factors ( diet, sleep) for weight loss are neglected.
Weight loss might be a compelling and long process. And, physical activity definitely plays a crucial role in this process.
Cycling is one of the best ways to burn calories thus losing weight. This is because even if you are overweight you still can perform this physical activity at ease.
Let’s speak with real numbers then!
According to the list published by Harvard University; biking at a speed of around 12-14 miles per hour will enable a 70-kg person to burn approximately 300 calories in 30 minutes (11).
Note that the faster you ride, the more calories you burn.
Nevertheless, it is important to state that continuity is more important than speed.
4- May Reduce Cancer Risk
Regular exercise has been heavily associated with a lower risk of cancer. There are also studies, that particularly analyzed the relationship between regular cycling and cancer risk.
In one of these studies, researchers from the University of Glasgow found that using a bicycle as a means of transport to work can reduce the risk of cancer by 45 per cent (12).
5- Promotes Sleep
What’s certain is that exercising promotes better sleep at night. As cycling is one of the easiest and fun ways to exercise, cycling as well can improve your sleep. Cycling will contribute to your sleep in three possible ways.
On one hand, cycling helps you fall asleep by simply tiring you out during and after riding.
On the other hand, cycling promotes sleep by reducing your stress level, which is a sleep killer.
Finally, regular cycling prevents you from gaining weight thus keeping weight-related sleep problems at bay.
6- Broadens Social Circles
We are social creatures thereby need a community to feel secure and to thrive. Bicycling is a form of exercise that can be done in a group. This allows you to broaden your social circle which in turn improves the sense of belonging.
Scientific research tells us that being a part of social groups is beneficial for mental wellbeing (13).
For instance, although swimming is a rather healthy sport, it is almost impossible to chat with your friends or team members while swimming.
Cycling, on the other hand, offers you this opportunity. While you are improving your health by pedalling you can also chat with new people who ride in the same group as you.
8- Increases Brain Power
If you are above a certain age that means you have another strong reason to get pedalling. Because the cognitive decline in brain functions may start as early as 30 and cycling may help your brain to remain sharp and functioning even at later ages (14).
Not only cycling though but also other healthy sports are known to improve brain functions thus keeping memory problems at bay.
As experts indicate; exercising increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain and that in turn can potentially boost brain power and memory (15).
But make no mistake, elders or middle-aged people aren’t the only ones who get benefits from cycling.
According to a well-designed study; children and young people as well get cognitive benefits, such as cognitive flexibility and improved concentration, from regular physical activity (16).
9- Improves Leg Muscles
As stated at the beginning of the article, cycling activates almost all major muscle groups. Yet, this form of exercise improves particularly the leg muscles. More technically; cycling activates your hamstrings, calves and quadriceps and shin muscles (2).
It is also important to note that cycling is one of the healthiest ways to improve legs muscles. This is because it doesn’t create too much stress on your leg muscles.
10- Protects Environment
By using your bicycle as a means of transport, you do not only protect your own health but at the same time, you do protect the environment.
As mentioned above ” bicycles save around 240 gallons of fuel every year (1).”.
This estimated number must indicate how effective cycling can be in terms of protecting the environment by reducing the carbon footprint.
Please note that the cleaner the air the healthier you are.
11- May Prevent High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure develops due mainly to wrong diet choices and a sedentary lifestyle (17).
Regular cycling can eliminate one of these causes – which is indeed sedentary life – thus reduces the risk of high blood pressure.
According to doctors; being physically active might be as effective as using blood pressure-lowering drugs (18).
Cycling is a sport that people of all age groups can perform at ease. Therefore, it can be a quite effective way to reduce the number of people with hypertension.
12- May Prevent Diabetes
Here is another serious health condition that regular cycling can help you prevent. Studies and experts’ views indicate the links between regular cycling and a lower risk of diabetes.
In a cohort study; danish adults who consistently rode bicycle were found to carry a significantly lower risk of type-2 diabetes (19).
This can be explained by the fact that sedentary lifestyle makes people prone to develop diabetes (20).
Cycling might also be an effective way to decrease the blood sugar level. However, we strongly recommend people with diabetes to consult with their doctor about their exercise plan.
How Often Should You Go Cycling?
In fact, the benefits of cycling that we mentioned above requires regular cycling. Therefore, it is necessary to cycle regularly to reap the benefits. As for the question that ” how often should I bike/cycle ?”, you can cycle every day if the intensity is moderate.
In the meantime, if you are cycling at high speed with great effort, it may leave your muscles sore. If this is the case, rest your body at least one day a week. That will allow your muscles to recover.
Apart from that, experts indicate that a total of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week is needed for a healthy life. Endevaour to mount on your bike at least 150 minutes each week (21).
Cycling Safety Tips
There are a couple of tips that can help you avoid potential unwelcome circumstances that may occur while riding your bike. Here are some effective cycling safety tips.
1- Use always the lanes specifically reserved for cyclists( if there is any ).
2- Make sure your bike has a bell that will allow you to communicate with other drivers and cyclists.
3- Always abide by traffic laws.
4- Try to use a quality helmet, especially when driving along with cars.
5- Wear clothes that make you visible to other road users, even at nighttime.
6- Avoid wearing clothes that your bike chain can catch.
7- Use bike lights especially for cycling at night.
8- Rough weathers ( inclement weather ) can make you susceptible to accidents. So, try not to ride in these types of weathers. If you must, wear suitable clothes.
9- Hot summer weathers as well can cause some problems especially skin problems due to direct sun exposure. Therefore try to use sunscreen while cycling on hot summer days.
10- Slow down in pedestrian areas and always use hand signals while turning, slowing and stopping.
The Final Verdict
Cycling is arguably one of the most fun and healthiest ways to exercise. It doesn’t require too much physical strength so almost everyone can bike.
Cycling can also allow you to discover places around you and of course doesn’t require money.
To crown it all, it protects the environment by not polluting it.
The decision is yours, but you should know cycling can make your life better in various ways.
If you think so, mount on your bike and explore around while exercising, and do not forget safety tips indeed.
Tarkan is an experienced health writer ( currently more than 600 articles ) and also the founder of this website namely www.neededforhealth.com. His expertise in health stems from in-depth medical research and knowledge which he obtained over the course of many years.
Tarkan enjoys sharing factual knowledge on health, psychology and nutrition. He always aims to deliver evidence-based recommendations, provide links to related scientific studies.