Cycling: Physical Benefits and More!

June 28, 2021

As the Tour de France continues to amaze us with the athletes seemingly superhuman fitness, we are feeling inspired and ready to get out on our bikes! (And I imagine we aren’t the only ones!) So, this week we are looking at the many health benefits of cycling!

The World Health Organisation highlight that physical inactivity in the world is one of the leading causes of ill health, while scientific research demonstrates how increased physical activity leads to a reduction in cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and type II diabetes. Increased activity levels can also help to improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression.   

The promotion of active travel behaviour such as cycling is a “Win-Win-Win” approach as it not only increases everyday activity of individuals and reduces travel costs, but it also has a positive impact on the environment by reducing emissions and congestion. The benefits of increased activity through cycling have been shown to far outweigh the potential negatives from the increased risk from traffic collisions or the increased exposure to pollution, with those who cycle to and from their places of work having a 40% lower mortality rate than those that don’t.  Furthermore, those who cycle to and from their places of work have shorter periods of sickness absence which it is thought is mainly due to the better health of those that cycle.  So now let’s look a bit more at what makes cycling so good for your health! 

Physical Benefits of Cycling

  1. Improved cardiovascular fitness. Not only can improving your cardiovascular fitness help reduce the likelihood of some serious health problems (eg stroke, heart attacks, some cancers, depression, diabetes, obesity and arthritis just to name a few!), but improving your cardiovascular fitness can provide more immediate benefits, such as the ability to do more of what you enjoy and what means the most to you.  This may be sport and exercise, other hobbies, or even just playing with the kids, grandchildren or your beloved fur babies! 
  2. Strengthening of muscles.  Strength training is important for all of us, not just the 20 year-old gym buffs.  Maintaining or even improving your strength, particularly as we age, will help us stay as independent as possible as long as possible!  Sometimes we struggle with strength training, particular leg strengthening, due to painful joints, however, cycling provides the strength training we need to keep our legs strong with minimal impact and therefore less likely to aggravate any painful joints. 
  3. Improved joint health.  The movement of the knees, hips and ankles that occur when cycling has been shown to improve joint pain and stiffness.  Furthermore, for those of us with arthritis, the movement of the joints helps improve the supply of nutrients to joints and therefore keeps them as healthy as possible. 
  4. Improved nerve health.  Nerve pain can come about through a number of reasons, but nerves usually become painful due to a reduced blood supply or reduced movement of nutrients along the nerves.  Both of these things are improved by movement, and so the movement that occurs when cycling can improve nerve health and function. 
  5. Improved balance and co-ordination.  Cycling requires a good stable core and is a real balancing act!  By cycling, balance and co-ordination improves thereby reducing your chance of falls or accidents. 

What else makes cycling a great form of exercise?

  1. Money, money, money! Once you have bought that bike you can save money on travel costs.  Not to mention the money it will save you when you aren’t off work on the sick as long as mentioned earlier. 
  2. It is easy to fit into an everyday routine.  While it’s quick enough to pop out on the bike for a 30minute jaunt around the local area, it saves even more time if you swap the traffic jams for a speedy cycle to work! 
  3. Almost anyone can join in. Don’t know what to do with the kids when you want to exercise? Take them with you! Cycling can be a great activity to get the kids away from their computer games and lets you enjoy time as a family.  
  4. Enjoyable outdoor activities can help mental health.  See our blog ‘mental health self-care ideas’ from February for more info on how exercise can help mental health, as well as some other ideas to give your mental health a little TLC! 

Here are some sources of further information to help you get started… 

Good luck and, most importantly, have fun! 

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