Next to running, cycling is my favorite way to stay active. There is just something so liberating about hopping on a bike, taking in the sights and sounds of the great outdoors, leaning in to the curves of the road and flying down hills with the wind (and a few bugs) in your face! I don’t think I’ve ever gone for a ride that, at some point, my mind didn’t wander back to childhood memories of all of us neighborhood kids riding around on our bikes all day exploring and maybe even getting into a little trouble from time to time. If you’re as old as I am, you would most likely have had a bike with a ‘banana seat’, streamers hanging from your handlebar grips and a basket on the front ….and you would have been one of the ‘cool kids’!
Now that I have you reminiscing, I’ll also tell you that aside from the liberating feeling and the wind and bugs in your face, there are quite a few health benefits to cycling as well. If you are new to the whole fitness scene, trying to lose weight or an injured runner, cycling may be the perfect way to get the body moving again.
Five Health Benefits to Cycling:
1. Lose Weight
Yes, believe it or not, you don’t have to pound the pavement to lose weight. Cycling is an aerobic activity and any aerobic activity will burn calories. Obviously, the amount of calories burned will depend on your weight, fitness level, distance covered and the speed at which you ride your bike. Wolfram Alpha (there’s an app too) is a great calculator and fun to use. Just type in ‘cycling calories’ or any other activity you’d like. It asks for very specific data which will result in more accurate data, however, keep in mind that all calorie formulas are not exact. In the example below, a 50 yo female weighing 150 pounds would burn approximately 431 calories on a 45 minute bike ride averaging 14 mph ….about the same amount of calories burned from a 45 minute run. Increase your speed a little and throw in some hills and watch those calories burned sky-rocket!
2. Tones Muscle
When pedaling, there are two main phases. The ‘downstroke’ is considered the power phase. Each time you push down on your pedals you are working the glutes (your tushie), quads (your thighs) and calves. The upstroke is considered the recovery phase and it fires up the hamstrings and hip flexors. Although they are not the workhorse of cycling, your abs and shoulders are used in keeping balance and steering the bike.
3. Low Impact
Obviously, since you are sitting on your tail bones while riding a bike, you are not putting the same amount of pressure on your legs that walking and running do. This makes cycling a great option for those who are heavier and just starting out on their fitness journey as well as those who are older who may already be suffering from joint pain. It is also a great cross training and recovery activity for injured runners and walkers.
4. Decreases Stress and Anxiety
It’s no secret that any and all forms of exercise has been scientifically proven to reduce stress. Some studies have even shown that those who bike to work have significantly lower stress levels than those who drove or used public transportation. Also, stress elevates your heart rate and since cycling requires you to regulate your breathing, your heart rate and stress level will see improvement. Not to mention, remember how much fun you had riding your bike as a child? Go back and read my introductory paragraph if you skipped over it!
5. It’s Heart Healthy
Cycling strengthens your heart, lungs and improves circulation. Studies have shown that cycling, among other forms of exercise, lowers resting heart rate and blood fat levels. In turn, this can reduce your risk of stroke, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease.
If you’re new to the fitness world, an injured runner looking for a low impact alternative or just looking for a fun way to get out and enjoy nature, cycling may be just what you need. So, grab you helmet, saddle up and get that ‘ole heart pumping. The roads are calling and the bugs are waiting ….it’s never too late to be a ‘cool kid’ again!
Stay tuned for more posts in my upcoming ‘Cycling Series’ …everything you need to know about cycling. This week I’m linking up with Rachel Meranda and Lacey for the Friday Five 2.0 linkup. Please stop by and visit our lovely hosts blogs, leave a comment and join in if you’d like …the more the merrier!