Cycling is an aerobic exercise that appeals to a wide range of people. Thanks to stationary bicycles, it is possible to exercise indoors or out. Cycling is lower impact than most other aerobic options, and because it doubles as a commuting option, it can be easy to include into even the busiest schedule, for fitness beginners and practiced athletes alike.
One of the biggest benefits of cycling versus other types of aerobic exercises is how easy it is to begin. Cycling is much less intense than most other exercises, making it ideal for people who are new to fitness or recovering from an illness or injury. In many cases, riding a bicycle is easier on the joints than even walking. The only barrier to starting this exercise is the purchase of a bike, but many places sell second-hand models, and upkeep should be minimal.
People looking to build strength and increase muscle mass may consider cycling, as it works many muscle groups. Cycling with a full-pedal stroke engages the muscles in the legs and hips, such as the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf. Leaning forward in proper cycling form also works the core, including the low back and abdominals. In most cases, cycling also strengthens the glutes.
While cycling is strengthening the body, it may also be improving cognitive ability. Several studies demonstrate that outdoor cycling, even when using a motorized bicycle, has notable effects on the brain. Study participants show better executive function, which includes skills like planning, attention focusing, and juggling multiple tasks.
In addition to its many physical benefits, cycling also improves mental health. Studies show that exercise, especially cycling, eases feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. Focusing on the road ahead promotes concentration and awareness of the present moment is a form of mindfulness, similar to meditation. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins that help combat the symptoms of various mental health conditions.
As we age, our sensory systems begin to deteriorate and the pattern of muscle activation changes. This leads to significant balance and stability issues. Cycling helps combat these effects and may lead to fewer falls and injuries for older adults. Studies show that cyclists and riders perform better on static and dynamic balance tests than non-cyclists, thanks to increased leg strength and better balance perception.
The simplest explanation for weight loss is using more calories than are consumed. Thirty minutes of cycling burns between 150 and 500 calories, depending on intensity and rider weight. This, plus its low impact on the joints, makes it one of the best exercises for weight loss. Raising the heart rate also enables the body to burn more calories during less physically demanding activities in the hours after a workout.
Cycling may help some people, especially those over age 40, to sleep better. A study from the University of Georgia found that a drop in fitness of 2% for males and 4% for females led to sleep issues. Aerobic exercises like cycling also help combat anxiety and weight loss, which are contributors to sleep dysfunction.
Aerobic exercise improves heart health and prevents many common cardiac conditions. Cycling is particularly ideal for people prone to heart conditions, such as those who are overweight, because it does not place mechanical stress on the back, hips, knees, or ankles. Many doctors recommend combining walking and cycling to get the most benefit with the least pain.
Evidence consistently links inactivity and excess fat to increased breast cancer risk and worse outcomes for potentially curable breast cancer. Weight loss due to aerobic exercise like cycling can prevent these issues. Additionally, physical activity can reduce the fatigue and other side effects of cancer treatments, even if the activity is adopted after diagnosis.
Cycling and other forms of aerobic exercise have extremely beneficial effects on the upper respiratory system, reducing the risk of infections. Additionally, exercising promotes the production of essential proteins and strengthens white blood cells, improving the immune response. Exercising aerobically most days of the week could cut down sick days by about 40%.
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