Why cycling is great for your legs, lungs, immune system and mind, plus 11 other great benefits of life on two wheels!
To those already engrossed in the cycling world, the benefits of cycling will already be abundantly clear, but for anyone who needs a reason to get out on the bike here’s a list of some of the biggest perks.
The bonuses to cycling – including physical health benefits of cycling, mental health benefits of cycling, and an almost guaranteed broadening of your social circle – are as numerous as the beautiful roads you can find.
If you are thinking of starting cycling, now is the perfect time to make some hefty savings. Our best Black Friday bike deals page is pack with deals and discounts across all things cycling to get you going for less.
But when it comes to picking a new hobby, there are of course plenty of options out in the world to weigh up, so here’s why we think cycling is the best:
1. CYCLING IMPROVES MENTAL WELL-BEING
A study by the YMCA showed that people who had a physically active lifestyle had a wellbeing score 32 per cent higher than inactive individuals.
There are so many ways that exercise can boost your mood: there’s the basic release of adrenalin and endorphins, and the improved confidence that comes from achieving new things (such as completing a sportive or getting closer to that goal such as completing your first 100-mile ride).
Cycling combines physical exercise with being outdoors and exploring new views. You can ride solo – giving you time to process worries or concerns, or you can ride with a group which broadens your social circle.
Former Hour Record holder Graeme Obree has suffered from depression through much of his life, and told us: “Getting out and riding will help [people suffering with depression]… Without cycling, I don’t know where I would be.»
2. STRENGTHEN YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM BY CYCLING
Dr. David Nieman and his colleagues at Appalachian State University studied 1000 adults up to the age of 85. They found that exercise had huge benefits on the health of the upper respiratory system – thus reducing instances of the common cold.
Nieman said: “People can knock down sick days by about 40 percent by exercising aerobically on most days of the week while at the same time receiving many other exercise-related health benefits.”
Professor Tim Noakes, of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, also tells us that mild exercise can improve our immune system by increasing production of essential proteins and waking up lazy white blood cells.
Why choose the bike? Cycling to work can reduce the time of your commute, and free you from the confines of germ infused buses and trains.
There is a but. Evidence suggests that immediately after intense exercise, such as an interval training session, your immune system is lowered – but adequate and effective recovery after cycling such as eating and sleeping well can help to reverse this.
3. CYCLING CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT
The simple equation, when it comes to weight loss, is ‘calories out must exceed calories in’. So you need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Cycling burns calories: between 400 and 1000 an hour, depending on intensity and rider weight.
Of course, there are other factors: the make-up of the calories you consume affects the frequency of your refuelling, as does the quality of your sleep and of course the amount of time you spend burning calories will be influenced by how much you enjoy your chosen activity.
Assuming you enjoy cycling, you’ll be burning calories. And if you eat a healthy diet that creates a calorie deficit (one that is controlled and does not put you at risk of long-term health conditions, we stress) you should lose weight.
4. CYCLING BUILDS MUSCLE
The resistance element of cycling means that it doesn’t just burn fat: it also builds muscle – particularly around the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Muscle is leaner than fat, and people with a higher percentage of muscle burn more calories even when sedentary.
To be clear – you won’t end up with quads like a track sprinter unless you invest a serious amount of time at the squat rack. But you will develop a nice toned derriere.
5. YOU CAN ENJOY SECOND BREAKFASTS AFTER CYCLING
If you decide to cycle to work, you’ve got a great excuse to add a couple of extra snacks to your day.
Since a half hour ride to work should be burning between 200 and 500 calories, you’ve got a license to enjoy a smug second breakfast at your desk.
If you’re serious about burning fat, you could do your morning ride fasted (sans breakfast) – but that’s mainly a habit reserved for the most dedicated of riders, and it’s a training tool best used with care, and in moderation – to avoid negative effects on your health.
6. CYCLISTS HAVE BETTER LUNG HEALTH
You won’t be alone if this point seems contradictory to common sense. But studies have suggested that people who ride a bike are actually exposed to fewer dangerous fumes than those who travel by car.
A study by the Healthy Air Campaign, Kings College London, and Camden Council, saw air pollution detectors fitted to a driver, a bus user, a pedestrian and a cyclist using a busy route through central London.
The results showed that the driver experienced five times higher pollution levels than the cyclist, as well as three and a half more than the walker and two and a half times more than the bus user. Long story short: the cyclist won.
7. CYCLING CUTS HEART DISEASE AND CANCER RISK
Cycling raises your heart rate and gets the blood pumping round your body, and it burns calories, limiting the chance of your being overweight. As a result, it’s among a selection of forms of exercise recommended by the NHS as being healthy ways to cut your risk of developing major illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
New evidence was presented in the form of a study conducted by the University of Glasgow, earlier this year. Researchers studied over 260,000 individuals over the course of five years – and found that cycling to work can cut a riders risk of developing heart disease or cancer in half. The full study can be read here.
Dr. Jason Gill of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences commented: “Cycling all or part of the way to work was associated with substantially lower risk of adverse health outcomes.»
8. CYCLING IS LOW IMPACT
Many of the upshots we discuss when we talk about the benefits of cycling are exercise related. Reckon it might be easier to just go for a run?
Running is weight bearing – and therefore injury rates are higher. Cycling, by contrast to running, is not weight bearing.
When scientists compared groups of exercisers – long distance runners and cyclists, they found the runners suffered 133-144 per cent more muscle damage, 256 per cent more, inflammation and DOMS 87 per cent higher.
Whilst cycling is less likely to result in an overuse injury, they can still crop up. A professional bike fit is a good idea – skimping here is a false economy if you end up spending more cash on physio.
The lack of weight bearing also means that cycling does not do as much to increase bone density as other sports – so it’s a good idea to add a little strength training in to your programme.
9. CYCLING SAVES TIME
Compare these three experiences:
- Get in the car, sit in traffic, queue to get into the car park, park, pay to park, arrive
- Walk to bus stop, wait for bus, complain about bus being late, get on bus (pay), watch as it takes you round-the-houses, arrive, about half a mile from your destination
- Get on the bike, filter past traffic, lock the bike, arrive
Short journeys contribute massively to global pollution levels, and often involve a fair amount of stationary staring at the bumper in front. Get on the bike, and you’ll save on petrol or cash on public transport, as well as time.
10. CYCLING IMPROVES NAVIGATIONAL SKILLS
In the world of car sat navs and Google maps, sometimes there’s just not that much incentive to sharpen your natural sense of direction (however superior or otherwise it may be).
Unless you’ve invested in a GPS cycling computer with mapping capabilities, then getting out and exploring the lanes can provide essential exercise for your internal mapping capabilities, giving you (with practice) a better idea of which way is West.
11. CYCLING IMPROVE YOUR SEX LIFE
Most of us know that sex is a good thing, but not everyone knows that it’s actually good for your overall health. In fact, regular sex could indeed prolong your life.
Dr Michael Roizen, who chairs the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, says: “The typical man who has 350 orgasms a year, versus the national average of around a quarter of that, lives about four years longer.” Similar findings were revealed for women.
So can cycling improve your sex life? Well – it builds some rather essential muscle groups. Dr Matthew Forsyth, urologist and keen cyclist from Portland, Oregon, commented: “All these muscles [worked on the bike] are used during intercourse. The better developed these muscles, the longer and more athletic intercourse will be.”
Add in that – thanks to spending plenty of time showing off all the lumps and bumps in skintight lycra (and occasionally double-oh-AND-seven) – cyclists tend to be fairly comfortable in their own skin, and you’ve got a recipe for success.
12. CYCLISTS SLEEP BETTER
It probably isn’t rocket science that tiring yourself out on the bike will improve your sleep – but now it’s been proven. Researchers at the University of Georgia studied men and women aged 20 to 85 over a period of 35 years, and found that a drop in fitness of 2 per cent for men and 4 per cent for women resulted in sleep problems.
Dr Rodney Dishman was one of the lead authors, and commented: «The steepest decline in cardiorespiratory fitness happens between ages 40 and 60. This is also when problems of sleep duration and quality are elevated.»
Looking for causes behind the link the scientists suggested it could be a reduction in anxiety, brought about by exercise, that elevates the ability to sleep. Exercise also protects against weight gain with age, which is another cause of sleep dysfunction.
13. CYCLING BOOSTS YOUR BRAIN POWER
Exercise has been repeatedly linked to brain health – and the reduction of cognitive changes that can leave us vulnerable to dementia later in life.
A 2013 study found that during exercise, cyclists’ blood flow in the brain rose by 28 per cent, and up to 70 per cent in specific areas. Not only that, but after exercise, in some areas blood flow remained up by 40 per cent even after exercise.
Improved blood flow is good because the red stuff delivers all sorts of goodies that keep us healthy – and the study concluded that we should cycle for 45-60 minutes, at 75-85 per cent of max ‘hear rate reserve’ (max heart rate minus resting heart rate) four times a week. Nothing stopping you riding more, of course.
14. CYCLING IMPROVES SPACIAL AWARENESS
Cycling isn’t just about raising your heart rate and getting you breathless – unless you’re doing it on Zwift. There are technical elements – climbing, descending and cornering all teach you to use your body weight to get the bike to go where you want it to.
Gaining the skills to manage these technical elements can provide a massive confidence boost – especially when you start to see improvement. Plus, you might just find your abilities to manage that dodgy shopping trolley with the wonky wheels greatly improves.
15. GROW YOUR SOCIAL CIRCLE THROUGH CYCLING
Cycling is an incredibly sociable sport. Grassroots cycling revolves around cycling club culture – which in turn revolves around the Saturday or Sunday club run: several hours of cycling in a group at an intensity that enables easy chat, interrupted only by a cafe stop for a coffee for a caffeine boost (or the occasional puncture).
Joining a cycling club or group is an excellent way to grow your social circle, and if you’re new to riding – you’ll probably find all the maintenance and training advice you may have been looking for there, too.
Why Cycling Is Good For The Environment
As modes of transport go, they don’t come much ‘greener’ than cycling. The environmental benefits of cycling outweigh pretty much any disadvantage you could even try to think of.
Whether you cycle to work, school, the shops, or simply to keep fit – every turn of the pedal helps protect our planet in one way or another.
Or, maybe you don’t currently cycle but are looking for a way of reducing your carbon footprint and living a more eco-friendly lifestyle – you’re in the right place, and cycling is a great place to start.
While many of the benefits seem obvious, others are less so. Read on to learn about 5 of the biggest environmental benefits of cycling.
Cycling reduces air pollution
If you’re reading this blog, we’ll assume you’re already pretty clued up on air pollution and are conscious of your efforts to reduce your own output.
But – in a nutshell, air pollution is the small particles, chemicals and gases released into the air, often from things like the burning of fossil fuels, transportation, and wildfires.
Driving motorised vehicles, like cars, is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution. Car fuels, in particular, include gases like carbon dioxide (CO₂) and nitrogen dioxide, which are seriously harmful to the environment when released in large volumes.
On the other hand, cycling releases very little CO₂ into the air. So, straight away, it has an enormous environmental advantage. Shorter journeys, in particular, are where you’re most likely to notice the biggest environmental benefits of cycling.
According to environmental organisation Hubbub, 50% of the journeys we take each day are less than two miles – meaning lots of unnecessary, excess pollution is sent into the air for journeys which could, in theory, be done on foot (or pedal!)
Hubbub also states that in the UK alone, more than half (55%) of transport emissions come from cars, which has a hugely negative impact on our air quality.
Switching short car trips for a cycle instead has huge environmental benefits, and what’s more – it’ll keep you physically fit, too.
Cycling reduces noise pollution
Pollution doesn’t just come in invisible gas form – there’s also noise pollution to be mindful of too.
Noise pollution is usually classed as any unwanted or disturbing sounds that affect humans and animals’ health and wellbeing in that particular area.
This type of pollution also impacts the health and wellbeing of wildlife. Studies have shown that sudden, loud noises can cause small insects like caterpillars’ hearts to beat faster and bluebirds, for example, to have fewer offspring.
Animals use natural sound for all sorts of reasons, such as navigation, finding food, attracting mates and avoiding predators. If we, as humans, disrupt these sounds with noise pollution, it makes it difficult for animals to survive.
Animals have to alter their behaviour and may even have to change locations to avoid noise, which has a detrimental knock-on effect on our entire environment. For example, if a bird leaves its forest and others follow, that forest may decline over time. This could then lead to that forest being cleared. This is called deforestation – we’ll come onto that a bit later.
However, if there’s less noise from vehicles, traffic queues and the like, animals are more likely to stay and allow surrounding nature to thrive.
So, by leaving the car at home and choosing to cycle instead, you’re not just helping to save the planet – but animals, too.
Cycling boosts biodiversity and protects green spaces
By its simplest definition, biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth. But, more specifically, biodiversity is the number and types of plants and animals existing in a particular area or space. It also takes into account how life and species’ on Earth interact with one and other.
Biodiversity is important for several reasons. Firstly, a healthy ecosystem means good quality and variety when it comes to things like food, water and air.
However, as the temperature of the Earth gets warmer and the weather gets more unpredictable (otherwise known as climate change), fewer plant and animal species can survive.
Improving biodiversity is another important environmental benefit of cycling. As cycling generates less noise and air pollution and emits fewer gases that contribute to global warming, it also protects green spaces and the wildlife that exists within them.
Over time, switching your car journeys (again, particularly the shorter journeys) for cycling reduces the need for surfaces to be paved for vehicles. This even includes areas you might not have otherwise considered – like your front drive, for example.
Fewer paved surfaces mean more green spaces by default. So, by cycling, you’re doing your bit to boost biodiversity and protect that precious, natural greenery.
Cycling reduces the need for deforestation
Heavily linked to the earlier notion of protecting green spaces, the issue of deforestation is one of the largest, ongoing issues regarding land use – not just here in the UK but globally, too.
By definition, deforestation is the action of clearing a wide area of trees or forest. These spaces are often then industrialised, which, for reasons discussed previously, can have devastating impacts on the environment.
For a start, the very building and construction of an industrial site involves vehicle transportation and the use of non-eco materials. Then, once in operation, sites often burn fuel and emit all sorts of harmful substances into the atmosphere. Not to mention the additional noise and air pollution from importing and exporting goods.
However, if more people chose to cycle instead of drive, there’d be a bigger case for keeping these green, cycle-friendly spaces alive. Long term, there’d also be less of a need for metal production to help build cars.
The metals used in car production often need to be mined from the Earth – a process that often requires deforestation to work.
Can you see how it’s all linked?
Cycling helps to reduce global warming
Cycling has been long-established as part of the solution for a low-carbon, greener future for the planet. And if you weren’t quite sure why before, you certainly are now after reading this blog.
There’s little doubt among scientists and environmental experts that human activity contributes massively to global warming. But the good thing is that, as humans, we also have the power to enact positive change.
According to data from Cycling UK, just 6% of urban passenger miles are from cycling. However, it’s estimated that increasing this to 11% by 2030 and 14% by 2050 could cut CO₂ emissions from passenger transport by 7% and 11%, respectively.
In fact, research also suggests that if people in England cycled as much as people in the Netherlands, there’d be around two million fewer car commuters on the road. In theory, this would reduce the UK’s CO₂ output by an average of more than 1,500 tonnes a year.
So, what are you waiting for?