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Health Benefits of Cycling

silhouette of a man riding a road bicycle uphill with mountains behind him

Health Benefits of Cycling

The modern health crisis in the United States seems to get worse every year, and not much is being done about it. If you are concerned about the your own health of the health of your family or community, promoting bicycling -- and taking it up yourself, if you haven't already -- is something you should consider.

Cycling, when properly performed with a well-fitted bike, is one of the best exercises known for overall physical fitness and health. This article will explore some of the many ways in which biking keeps you young, strong, and happy. Let's get to it!

Health and Cardiovascular Fitness

Cycling is known as an endurance sport that builds a strong heart and lungs. Due to the activity's aerobic nature, the muscles of the heart become strong, the lungs become more efficient, and the entire circulatory system becomes more effective at transporting oxygen to your system while exercising.

The great thing is that these benefits don't just show up when you are exercising; they are also apparent at rest. Cyclists and other endurance athletes tend to have a lower resting heart rate and more efficient, relaxed breathing. The British Medical Association says that cycling 20 miles a week reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent -- not bad for a couple of hours of riding!

Stronger Muscles

The next obvious benefit of cycling is stronger muscles. Biking works the calves, quads and hamstrings, as well as the large muscles in the buttocks and tiny connecting and stabilizing muscles in the feet, ankles and hips. The act of balancing tests your core muscles, as does powering up hills or riding fast on the flats. And the hands, triceps, chest and upper back get a decent workout from maneuvering and steering your bike around.

One benefit of cycling is that it is a low-impact form of exercise, perfect for those who can't handle something like running because of poor bone integrity or other issues. Of course, it is best to consult with a doctor before starting any new exercise program if you are in ill health; however, in some cases, light impact exercise can be very important for rebuilding bone mass.

Longer Life Expectancy

Many people have the mistaken idea that cycling, because of the risk of accidents, actually reduces your lifespan. This is far from the truth. Several studies conducted in the Netherlands and Belgium have concluded that biking increases overall lifespan as much as a year. Another study of Tour de France participants showed they averaged a 17% longer lifespan than the general population -- evidence that extreme endurance training (when done properly) can contribute to a long life.

While bicycling may give riders a larger dose of air pollution in dense cities or industrial areas, researchers say these effects are more than cancelled out by the additional cardiovascular health. Riding skills and proper helmet use can contribute to safe riding and make sure that you are whole and healthy for years of riding.

Improved Coordination and Balance

Biking is also known to improve coordination and balance, which is especially important as you begin to age. Elderly folks begin to lose their reflexes and balance over time, and gentle cycling can be a great way to maintain your body as time goes on.

Stronger Immune System

Studies have shown that moderate cycling increases the strength of the immune system and can help protect against colds, flu and other illnesses. But be warned: doctors say that extreme intensity can exhaust the body and lead to a reduction in the effectiveness of your immune system. That doesn't mean it's never good to ride hard, but be sure to get plenty of sleep, eat right and keep your stress levels low when you are training hard to stay healthy.

Better Mental health and Reduced Stress

Speaking of stress, cycling is one of the best ways to get rid of bad feelings and built-up anxiety. Riders have to focus and work hard to keep riding, and this effort seems to make worries fall away. Biking has been shown to reduce rates of depression and helps release endorphins that make you feel great after a hard ride. Plus, one study has shown that cycling together can improve a couple's relationship.

So with all this information for motivation, get out there and ride!