One of the most popular recreational activities in the US, Europe and other parts of the world is cycling. If you don’t know yet how to ride these two-wheeled vehicles, do not worry because if you can walk, you can learn how to ride a bike.
There are also many health benefits to using a bicycle as your main means of transportation. When you’re using a bike to get from point A to point B, you are doing your share in helping save the environment because you are using muscle power instead of gas or fuel for your mode of transportation.
Not only is bike riding eco-friendly, it is also budget-friendly because you won’t have to spend money on fuel. If you get into recreational biking, mountain biking, racing or any bike-related sport, you are going to increase your circle of friends.
Biking is a sport that is taken on by people from all walks of life and all age ranges, so your social life will be given a boost. Riding a bicycle is also good for the spirit, because being outdoors and feeling the wind against your face as you speed along is an unparalleled, refreshing experience.
What Are the Best Health Benefits of Biking?
Now, what about the health-specific benefits of riding a bike? Along with walking, jogging, and running, biking is considered as a good form of cardiovascular exercise. If you have yet to seriously ride a bike, here are the top reasons why the activity is good for your health.
1. Bike riding is good for the brain
All physical exercises are good for the brain because the exertion makes oxygen and nutrients flow more freely towards the brain and the muscles. Biking specifically forces more nerve cells to fire up the neurons, which in turn boost the creation of proteins that help promote the formation of new brain cells.
The more you pedal, the more neurons will be produced which helps brain cells communicate faster and more efficiently with each other.
Riding a bike is especially helpful for older individuals because as people age, the brain actually shrinks and the connection between brain cells become weaker. If you would like to have a higher concentration level, a sharper memory, better problem solving skills, and a more efficient brain, you should definitely get into the habit of biking.
2. It uplifts the spirit
Biking aficionados might describe the experience of riding a bike as being similar to flying. It’s an almost spiritual experience as you feel the breeze against your face and your hair, as you pedal your way towards your destination, as your feet dictate the pace of how fast or how slow your bicycle glides down the road.
Those who enjoy driving a car might also enjoy being astride a bike, although it’s a much simpler means of transportation. There’s just this extra bonus of using your muscle power to get to your destination so instead of using gas as fuel, you’re using your own strength and sweat. If your spirit is uplifted, you will enjoy numerous health benefits as well.
3. It puts very little stress on your joints
If you’re trying to lose weight, there are certain exercises like crunches that, if not done properly, will put undue stress on your joints. Riding a bike is a physical activity that does not fall under this category.
Cycling has very little impact on your joints so even if you are cycling for miles and miles, you will not put too much stress on your knees. In fact, it will help work out your glutes, thighs and legs. As compared to walking or running, biking will let you get farther in terms of the miles that you can work out.
Experts said that if you can walk for 0.5 miles, you can ride a bike for five miles, have a much better workout, and not put undue strain on the lower part of your body.
4. It helps you lose weight
Moms who are trying to shed their post-baby weight might want to consider biking. You can have some much-needed me-time while getting back in shape. There’s also something about biking that makes you feel free, and makes you go back to being a kid again.
When it comes to shedding the excess pounds, riding a bicycle helps burn major calories. When you ride a bike at a speed of 12 to 14 miles per hour, you can burn as much as 500 calories in sixty minutes.
Even beginners can easily ride a bike for one or two hours, so you don’t have to worry about not having enough stamina to last for sixty minutes or even double that. Whether you have ten, twenty, thirty or more pounds to lose, you can use biking as your main means of exercising.
5. It works out the largest muscles in your body
If you would like to have rock-hard glutes and firm buttocks, you definitely should take on biking. While you are riding a bicycle, the largest muscles in your body get worked out, specifically the buttocks and legs. As you pedal those extra pounds away, you are also toning your entire body while developing your glutes, thighs, and your behind all at the same time.
6. It makes you look younger
What better reason is there to take on biking other than the fact that it makes you look younger?
There are studies conducted at Stanford University which indicated that riding a bike regularly can protect your skin from the harsh ultraviolet rays of the sun. It also helps diminish the signs of ageing on your skin through increased circulation. With the physical exertion brought about by biking, more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the skin.
The harmful toxins from your body are also flushed out through sweat. More importantly, collagen production is optimized because of the physical activity. This results to a reduced appearance of wrinkles. If you have wounds, being physically active will speed up the healing process. Just make sure to slather sun protection on your skin before heading out, or wear protective gear from the sun.
7. It helps you sleep better
In another study conducted at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, those who are suffering from insomnia were asked to ride a bike for twenty minutes to about half an hour every other day. After a week or so, the time that it took for them to fall asleep was reduced by half. Their time for some quality shuteye was also increased by almost sixty minutes.
The reason? Biking or exercising in general makes you exposed to daylight. As a result, your circadian rhythm is put back in sync. Exposure to sunlight also helps get rid of cortisol which is a stress hormone that prevents people from getting good quality sleep.
8. It helps beat illnesses
Even moderate biking, when done on a regular basis, can help keep sickness at bay. What the physical activity does is make immune cells more active, so your body can easily fight off infection. By riding a bike for thirty minutes a day, five days a week, you will take only half of the sick days taken on by individuals who lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
9. It improves bowel movement
This may sound like an odd benefit of cycling but it does improve your bowel movement. The more physical activity your body gets, the lesser time it takes for food to move through the large intestines. As such, the amount of water absorbed back into your body is limited so you will have better bowel movement.
Riding a bike regularly also helps improve your breathing as well as your heart rate. This in turn stimulates the contraction of the intestinal muscles. You’ll not feel bloated anymore, you can get protection from bowel cancer, and you will have better overall bowel movement when you take on an aerobic activity like biking.
10. It increases your lifespan
Finally, if you would like to live a long, healthy life, you should definitely take on biking as a hobby. In studies conducted in London, experts found out that people who ride a bike three times a week for 45 minutes were biologically younger, and had a lower body mass index.
They’re also less prone to developing certain types of cancers, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. The physical activity helps your body defend itself against illnesses, and helps regenerate new cells so you will get to live a long, healthy life.
If you’re a beginner, it is recommended that you start riding a bike for at least 150 minutes per week. You can ride a bike to work or to run errands instead of driving so that you can get your exercise time. Instead of scheduling a barbecue party with friends, invite them to go biking with you so that you can discover new places in your area.
You can ride solo or as a group and once you have sufficient skill, you can try something more advanced like mountain biking. When going for a ride, slap on plenty of sunscreen and wear a protective helmet. Familiarize yourself with the arm and hand signals so that you can safely make turns.
Similar to driving a car, you should obey traffic lights and road signs. With plenty of benefits for your health, there’s no doubt that bike riding is one of the best hobbies that you can take on, doubling as a recreational activity and as a form of physical exercise.