Want to reduce chronic health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle? Then hop on your bicycle. Regularly riding a bicycle can help you reach better health while slashing your likelihood of developing health issues. From young children to older adults, this low-impact exercise can be enjoyed by people of all ages, allowing them to participate together. There must be a reason why approximately one billion people worldwide use a bicycle every day – for transportation, recreation, and sport, and it’s a cheap and fun source of entertainment while enjoying the outdoors.
If it’s been a while since you’ve last ridden a bicycle, that’s okay – remember, they say you never forget how to ride a bike.
And if you’re looking for a fun, adventurous way to improve your health, there’s no better time than now to get cycling.
Check out these health benefits bicycling provides:
- Pedal pushing improves aerobic fitness and cardiovascular health
Your heart, brain, and blood vessels will shout out hip, hip, and hooray when you choose bicycling as your main form of aerobic exercise. The rhythmic pedaling pumps blood throughout the body while triggering the release of endorphins, giving you a feel-good rush. In addition, mixing up the terrain you bicycle on – choosing hills over flat topography – will provide an extra aerobic workout once you are ready to tackle a more challenging landscape.
Cycling strengthens your heart muscle, lowers resting pulse rate, and reduces blood fat levels. In addition, research shows that people who cycle to work have two to three times less exposure to pollution than car commuters, improving their lung function.
- Your joints will breathe a sigh of relief
Those with hip, knee, or foot joint pain will find bicycling a breeze. Sitting on a bike means you put your weight on the pair of bones in the pelvis called the ishial tuberosities, the same bones you use when you sit down. Likewise, when we stand up and walk, we put weight on our joints, and for those with any form of joint pain or age-related stiffness, this can mean the difference between being physically active or physically impaired.
- Builds stronger muscles and bones
All kinds of large muscle groups get a workout when we bicycle. During the power phase of pedaling (the downstroke), the gluteus muscles in the buttocks, the quadriceps in the thighs, and the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calves are being called into action, helping to stimulate muscle growth. During the recovery phase (backstroke, upstroke, and over stroke), the hamstrings in the back of the thighs and the flexor muscles in the front of the hips are getting a very nice workout keeping them in tip-top shape.
Other muscles benefitting from bicycling include the abdominal muscles as they tighten to maintain balance and keep you upright. You will also notice definition in the arms and shoulders as they become conditioned to holding onto the handlebars and steering.
Even though bicycling is not considered a weight-bearing exercise, our bones do benefit from the pushing of the pedals, which pull on muscles, and then the muscles pull on the bone, making them stronger.
- Curbs obesity and achieves better weight control
Bicycling is a great way to increase your metabolic rate or the rate at which you burn calories, helping to achieve healthier body weight. Cycling is perfect for reaching that goal when combined with a healthy eating plan. Research has shown that someone who bicycles steadily for an hour will burn around 300 calories.
- Makes everyday activities easier
Riding a bicycle is a balancing act. The art of balancing oneself on a tiny seat carries over into other areas of your life from better balance, walking, standing, endurance, and stair climbing. Suddenly, these activities become less complicated and less likely to result in a fall or injury.
Always be safe
Riding a bicycle is enjoyable, but because you may be sharing the road with vehicles, you must practice safety. First, if it’s been a while since having a regular exercise routine, get the okay from your doctor, particularly if you have heart disease, arthritis, or thinning bones. If the risk of falling is a concern, adult tricycles provide more stability and pose less fall risk while still providing a good aerobic workout.
Other safety considerations when riding a bicycle:
- Helmets are a must to protect the head.
- Don’t use clips to keep your feet on the pedals, which could worsen a fall injury.
- Don’t ride alone.
- Stick to a bike path if possible.
- If riding on a street or highway, wear noticeable, reflective clothing. Always use hand signals when making turns and use a rearview mirror. If riding at night, use blinking lights on your bicycle to be more noticeable.
- Keep hydrated while riding and carry a small snack with you.
- Wear sunscreen and sunglasses.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.