The health benefits of cycling

October 02, 2018
The health benefits of cycling
The health benefits of cycling

As endless as the roads your bikes will head down, cycling’s health benefits trump those of nearly every other sport. From improved cardiovascular function to positive mental wellbeing, cycling can pull you from any dark place and set you on the road to recovery in no time.

Not only is cycling great at boosting both your physical and mental health, it’s also one of the cheapest, most accessible and easiest ways to let off steam and engage in endless hours of life’s most treasured commodity – fun.

Here are just some of the many benefits that come with living the two-wheeled life…

A healthy heart

Cycling is great at getting your heart beating and the blood pumping, whether gliding up foreboding mountain passes or ragging your machine down hair-raising, off-road descents. Most activity on your bike will fall into the aerobic category, which means your whole cardiovascular system gets a full workout – without leaving you in that doubled over, anaerobic state with lactic acid coursing throughout your entire body.

The more aerobic activity you engage with, the more efficient your heart becomes. We often forget that our heart is, essentially, just one big muscle. Just as we hone our biceps and abs for displays of masochism and athleticism, we should also be doing the same thing with our hearts. Not only does a healthy heart improve your cardiovascular function, it will also help to reduce both your blood pressure and resting heart rate – perfect for combating cardiovascular illnesses.

A study from the British Medical Associated shows that by cycling just 20 miles a week, the potential to develop heart disease is slashed by a giant 50%. Another study, published in The Circulation Journal, found that people who rode regularly had 15% fewer heart attacks than non-cyclists. These stats are incredibly telling, as are the cycling benefits themselves – pedaling your way to a healthy heart is clearly one of the most effective methods out there.

Increased lung power

Lung size isn’t the first thing you’re likely to brag about at parties, but increased lung capacity and power are certainly some of the most boast-worthy benefits of cycling. Let’s face it, there’s no worse feeling than laying, doubled over at the top of a flight of stairs, your body panting for air after summiting what felt like Mt. Everest. The reality is that we should be able to crest a flight of stairs without becoming incapacitated by the top – a lot of this comes down to lung capacity, stamina, and general fitness, aspects of health that cycling dramatically benefits.

You’re lungs and heart work as a tight-knit team, tag-team of sorts that combine together to deliver oxygen exactly where it’s needed. The more oxygen that can be delivered, the better – and this all comes down to an individual’s maximal oxygen consumption, otherwise known as one’s VO2 max. Longer, aerobic workouts help to increase VO2 max, helping you ride longer without the added effort. However, so do fast-paced anaerobic workouts – a training session many cyclists and athletes refer to as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This type of training helps to further your ‘red zones’, allowing you to ride at super-high intensities for even longer. These kinds of workouts are billed as some of the best by professional riders, especially for those training for short, sharp efforts in the saddle.

Contrary to popular belief, cycling in the city isn’t as bad for your lungs as first thought. A recent study from the Healthy Air Campaign, Kings College London, fitted air pollution detectors to a driver, bus user, pedestrian and a cyclist. To cut a long story short, the driver came off worst – experiencing a massive five times more pollution levels than the cyclist, who subsequently came out on top. However, this by no means makes emissions less harmful for cyclists, and those regularly riding through the city may just want to take preventative measures to maintain their lung health.

Positive mental wellbeing

For relieving stress, anxiety or sadness, exercise is – quite often – the perfect remedy. Physical activity promotes the release of endorphins in your brain, flooding the neural pathways with that feel-good chemical we all crave. A study by the YMCA has shown that people who engage with a physically active lifestyle achieve a much higher wellbeing score than those who don’t – a massive 32% higher.

Whether riding solo, treading new ground, or in a large group speeding along familiar roads, the same kind of adrenaline and endorphins will flood your system, giving you that trademark ear to ear grin. Being part of a community, like a cycling club, also helps to give you that all important sense of belonging. In terms of increasing your social circle and connecting with like-minded, friendly-faced people, there’s no better sport than cycling to do just that.

As you head outdoors, often into the great unknown, you’ll not only discover new things about the city or area around you but also in yourself. Cycling is the key to unlocking those strengths you never thought you had, whether that’s pure, physical power or the ability to communicate across language barriers when you find yourself off the beaten track on a touring adventure – the list is endless!

Faster recovery

We’ve all heard stories of people hampered by injuries taking up cycling, only to find a new lease of life and completely re-find their fitness. This is because cycling is a low-impact sport that puts a lot less pressure on your joints – the most important being your knees. Many runners, when experiencing knee pain, are encouraged to take up cycling as a way to relieve the stress and aid recovery.

It’s hard to replace a knee, and the new version will never be as nimble as the original, so taking good care of them – and the rest of your joints and bones for that matter – is great practice. Interspersing your gym workouts with leisurely cycling rides is a great step towards healthy, nimble joints and bones. Such variety will also keep your entire body well stretched, keeping it flexible into your older years to greatly reduce degenerative conditions such as arthritis.

Weight loss without the extreme diets

Is riding a bike good exercise? To put it quite simply, yes. In fact, it’s one of the best methods of exercise to trim fat and lose weight across your whole body. There’s a reason the pro bike riders are so damn lean, just an hour of cycling can burn as many as 1,000 calories – depending on the intensity you’re riding at.

There’s no need to embark on any fad diets, crazy eating regimes or even calorie count at all – a balanced diet, combined with regular exercise will help you lose weight in no time. Refueling has also never been more fun, with the number of calories lost on a ride, you’ll need a few post-ride, guilt-free indulgences to get your calories, and energy levels straight back up. All this is to say nothing of the nutritional benefits of bike riding, with an hour or more of pedaling your metabolism into overdrive, you’ll be burning calories faster than you can cram them back in.

You also don’t need a heavily structured work out to start shifting that weight. Spin classes are great, but opting for the bike, instead of the car, on your way into and out of work will do so much more for your overall fitness and weight loss. Commuting by bike, in fact, has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to lose weight – the University of East Anglia found that people who switched to cycling from driving lost, on average, 7kg over the course of a year when riding just 30 minutes each way.

Health doesn’t have to be expensive

Cycling needn’t be expensive, nor limited to those with access to the latest and greatest tech. It can be as simple as fixing up the old bicycle from the back of your garage or treating yourself to a new, simple bike – none of which will break the bank nearly as much as a fully-fledged carbon racer.

Our 3-speed bikes are some of the most stylish, urban cruisers out there and will no doubt have you pedaling your way from here to yonder in no time at all. They’re also super comfy, their slack geometry and plush, padded touch-points create one incredibly lush ride. For something with a little more versatility, the sixthreezero Classic Edition 7 Speed Women's Beach Cruiser Bike is a great choice. With the same comfy ride feel, but a little extra room in the gearing department, this is a bike that can travel all manner of city terrain- no hill too big for you to crest.

If you’re now motivated to kick the binge and adopt the healthy, cycling lifestyle, make sure you check out our full range of bicycles. Everyone has a different idea of the ‘perfect bike’ – with our expansive range, drop-dead gorgeous aesthetics, and comfy, ergonomic touch-points, you’ll be sure to find your dream machine here, at sixthreezero.

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The health benefits of cycling