No matter your age or current fitness level, getting on a bike is good for you. The benefits of cycling can be felt by all. And it’s something more and more people are noticing, as the popularity of cycling has soared in recent years. People are cycling to work; they’re cycling for fitness and leisure; families are spending time together on their bikes. Thousands have caught the bug.
Whether cyclists have been spurred on by the successes of UK cycling teams in recent years or their own fitness goals, getting on your bike and pedalling does wonders for your health and wellbeing. The following should you give you plenty of motivation to start cycling.
Cycling is low impact - and enjoyable - exercise
Unlike activities like running, cycling isn’t weight bearing. The chance of suffering muscle damage or general inflammation is much lower, because you don’t put as much stress on key joints – particularly ankles, knees, hips and your back. If you’ve ever suffered an injury or struggle with joint problems, cycling is an excellent way to get back into exercise.
If you’re a fitness fanatic, rest assured that low impact doesn’t mean low intensity. You can still get a decent workout in when cycling. Concentrate on raising your heart rate and challenging your limits. You can intensify a cycling session by:
- Upping the incline – taking on those big hills
- Adding resistance – move the gears up
- Increasing the time or distance
When cycling, you can protect your joints and push yourself, making the workout as intense as you want. What’s more, much of modern-day exercise focuses on dedicating part of your daily routine to it. You’ve got to drag yourself to the gym and get motivated.
Cycling is different. It fits into your day, and is genuinely enjoyable. It doesn’t feel like exercise. Instead, it’s fun to get out in the fresh air and pick up the pace.
Cycling has loads of health benefits
It’s not just about the more obvious health benefits – weight loss and improved cardiovascular fitness levels – but the longer-term effects of cycling. Better lung health, an improved immune system, a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer; without a doubt, cycling is great for your health. There are loads of reports, studies and surveys citing just how good cycling is for us. Here are some highlights:
- Being active means you’re less likely to develop high blood pressure
- Cycling builds muscle and bone density
- Your body fat levels will decrease
- Improved posture and coordination
- Regular cycling contributes to the prevention of disease
Cycling is an aerobic activity – your heart, blood vessels and lungs are all getting a valuable workout. Within no time, your fitness levels will improve. And over the longer term, you can expect to feel healthier and generally better – just ask anyone who already cycles regularly. They’ll confirm it.
It's also great for your mental wellbeing
Not everyone cycles for their fitness. In fact, more people find it helps their mental health – regardless of the reasons why they get on their bike in the first place. In Cycling UK’s Rides of Way survey of almost 11,500 cyclists, 91% said cycling was fairly or very important for their mental health.
On the surface, it’s easy to understand why riding a bike is relaxing. The fresh air and freedom to go where you want offer a welcome relief from a stressful day. Whether it’s just a bad day in the office or on-going issues, cycling can release tension and help you maintain balance in your life. But what’s going on underneath? How does cycling benefit your mental health?
Well, two key hormones are involved with cycling – cortisol, the stress hormone, is reduced and endorphins, feel-good hormones, are released. Cortisol is the hormone your body releases when facing stress. A certain amount is healthy, as cortisol helps your body perform in times of crisis.
But it also increases heart rate, blood pressure and respiration, as well as causing muscle tension, so too much isn’t good for you. Luckily, cycling reduces cortisol and has a relaxing effect on your mental state.
Any aerobic exercise also releases endorphins, which you might have heard referred to as ‘runner’s high’. You get the same feeling cycling, and it’s been proven to reduce anxiety and make you happier.
Cycling can save you money - and the environment
You can integrate cycling into your daily routine by using it as a way of getting from A to B. Whether that’s your daily commute or a weekend trip to the shops, cycling can get you where you need to be – and you’ll still get the other benefits.
Plus, you’re not paying for petrol or public transport. You’re using your own fitness to fuel your journey. In fact, there are many schemes which encourage you to do so. One of the most notable is the UK Government’s Cycle to Work scheme, an initiative which offers huge savings on the cost of a new bike.
Employers buy bicycles, which they hire out to employees through a salary sacrifice. It’s cheaper because the government offers those businesses tax exemptions, so the savings can be passed on to you. You can buy the bike outright at the end of the 12-month hire period. Cyclists’ safety equipment is also offered as a tax-free benefit.
Schemes like this are not only great for you, but they benefit everyone. They reduce city traffic, promote healthier journeys, and reduce environmental pollution. Cycling tends to be quicker than others transport methods, as well as more reliable – not to mention you won’t get stressed driving in traffic. The case quickly builds up.
It improves your sleep
Cycling, although tiring, also has a relaxing effect. In fact, any regular exercise can improve your circadian rhythm – your internal sleep/wake clock which cycles between sleepiness and alertness. It works by reducing stress levels – a common cause of insomnia – and tiring you out. This not only helps you get to sleep, but keeps you asleep for longer.
But it’s important to find the right pattern for you. If you find cycling in the evenings livens you up too much, get on your bike earlier and benefit from the extra energy throughout the day. By the time you go to bed, you’ll feel ready to rest.
Cycling also gives you a break when you’re awake. It helps you stay aware of what’s going on around you – rather than letting your mind wander off. This is often referred to as mindfulness. It can help you re-focus on the present moment instead of getting overwhelmed with racing thoughts.
You'll make friends when cycling
Some days, it’ll be just you and your bike. You might pass a few other cyclists on your route. But cycling can be as social as you like – you can encourage friends to get on their bikes too, join cycling clubs, take part in competitions or join community rides.
Around the UK, there are clubs for all levels. It might seem like a daunting idea turning up at first, but cycling clubs are friendly places. You’ll find a welcoming bunch of cyclists, as well as loads of advice and support from professionals or new enthusiasts. People tend to find some great friends at cycling clubs too.
Join one today and start reaping the rewards of cycling sooner than you think. And should you need a secure place to store your bike at home, check out our bike lockers.