5 Reasons to Start Cycling Today

Article posted in: Fitness
couple cycling together in a park

You’ve seen the YouTube videos. Whether it’s the models doing bike acrobatics or the drill-sergeant spin instructor pedaling like a madman (or woman), cycling looks intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be! Cycling is an effective, calorie-burning aerobic and/or anaerobic exercise, but it’s also easy on your body and more life-friendly than swimming , says Harvard Health Publishing. Plus, you can exercise inside your home or outside at the park, depending on your preference.

From mountain biking to a leisurely ride through the park, this fun workout is the perfect way to tone up while you slim down. If you live close to your workplace, try cycling to the office instead of driving. You can even swap out a lazy evening on the couch with a productive work out on your stationary bike.

So, grab that bike that’s been hanging in your shed for a little too long and get pedaling! (Just make sure to check the brakes and fill up those tires.) Find out why cycling has become one of the most popular exercises this year.

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Here are five reasons to start cycling today:

1. The Ease

woman cycling on a stationary bike

Why is cycling easy on the body? When you bike, you sit on a pair of bones in the pelvis called the ischial tuberosities, says Harvard Health Publishing. Your leg muscles are working (more on that in a minute) but your body weight is in your seat, which takes pressure off the knees and hips. When you walk or run, your knee, hip and ankle joints are absorbing the impact of your whole body. This is taxing for anyone but much more taxing if you’re carrying extra pounds.

When you’re first starting out, a recumbent bike can help you ease into cycling. Many riders find the reclined position is more comfortable and even easier on the joints than an upright bike. Have a back, knee or shoulder injury? Recumbent bikes allow you to bike without putting much pressure on these areas. Just be sure to speak with your doctor before you get moving.

2. The Muscles

woman cycling on a stationary bike in her living room.

The quadriceps—the muscles that form the tops of your thighs—are the primary muscles that power your legs downward when you cycle. However, your glutes plus gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calves, are also involved, says Harvard Health Publishing. On the upstroke, you’re working your hamstrings (back of the thighs) and flexor muscles in the hips.

Your core also works hard to stabilize you as you bike or spin. Don’t slouch; keep your shoulders back and spine straight as you pedal. That motion will keep your abs engaged while toning your back and shoulder muscles. Want to work the arms, too? Have light hand weights nearby. You can do bicep and tricep exercises while slowly pedaling your legs.

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3. The Outdoors

cycling couple mountain biking in the woods

Unfortunately, the vast majority of roadways in the United States are ill equipped for bicycle commuters. But the U.S. does have a few biking-for-leisure options, thanks to 10,234 state and 400 national parks!

When we spend time in nature, we’re happier. In a study with over 18,000 participants, subjects were asked to engage with nature every day for a month. “The results of the evaluation show that the mass engagement campaign, 30 Days Wild, led to sustained increases in connection to nature, also bringing associated benefits to happiness, health, and pro-nature behaviours,” says PLOS One.

A July 2018 report, published in Environmental Research, also found that an increased exposure to “greenspace” reduces the risk of type II diabetes, high blood pressure, stress, cardiovascular death and preterm birth. Researchers also state, “Incidence of stroke, hypertension, dyslipidaemia, asthma, and coronary heart disease were reduced.”

4. The Togetherness

couple resting in a park after cycling

The beauty of bicycling is that almost everyone can do it. Your spouse, kids and parents can ride with you. Your friends can accompany and challenge you. Plus, it’s safer to ride in numbers if you hit the road—five bikers are much easier to spot than a lone wolf. Just be sure everyone wears a helmet and follows road rules. Stop at stop signs and traffic lights. Signal with your hand before turning. And, remember to ride with the flow of traffic, not against it.

Have a stationary bike? Some bikes come with access to live, virtual classes you can access anytime, anywhere around the country. Your television provider or streaming service may have on-demand or recorded spin workouts. Classes challenge you and camaraderie can make you feel supported.

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5. The Health

man exercising on a stationary bike indoors

Biking is an excellent way to burn calories and lose weight. A 155-pound person cycling at a leisurely pace of 10 to 12 mph will burn about seven calories per minute, says Harvard Health Publishing. But the benefits don’t stop there. A 2016 study, published in the journal Circulation, found that people who biked regularly had about 15 percent fewer heart attacks than noncyclists, says Harvard Health Publishing. Plus, researchers at Cleveland Clinic are finding that cycling can help stop symptoms and slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Another 2018 study, published in the journal Aging Cell, showed cycling can hold back effects of aging and rejuvenate the immune system.

Ready to jump on? First, let’s talk through some basic tips and best practices suggested by Harvard Health Publishing:

  • Adjust your seat so your knees are slightly bent. Make sure that you do not have a straight knee at the bottom of your pedal stroke.
  • Keep your seat level so you’re not sitting too far forward or putting too much weight on your handlebars.
  • Relax your shoulders and keep your elbows bent so they’re shock absorbers.
  • Keep your knees in as you pedal and heels down to maximize efficiency.

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*Always speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.