When Charles, Baron von Drais of Sauerbrun, patented his Draisienne in 1818, he changed the world forever. Patented again in Paris, it was renamed the velocipede and we know it as the bicycle, the name it was given in 1869. This eco-friendly method of transportation has alternately risen and declined in popularity, but is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the U.S. Bicycling has also become popular as a workout regimen and has been proven to provide significant health benefits.
How Does Cycling Make Me Healthier?
Bicycling works all the muscles in the body and can provide all the health benefits of an intense cardio workout without stressing the body like cardio workouts can. This is especially important for those who may have limited mobility or health issues such as arthritis that may prohibit high-impact aerobic exercises. Bicycling provides a wide range of intensities without the need for specialized equipment, and bicycles can be affordable in almost any price range. Those who want a high-intensity workout can engage in friendly competition with a partner or self-compete with a timer. Those who prefer a more leisurely workout can still achieve the cardiovascular workout that bike riding provides while accommodating any physical limitations they may have.
What Are The Specific Health Benefits Of Bicycling?
Since bicycling works all the muscles in the body, it provides significant health benefits to the muscles, the skeletal system, the cardiovascular system, the mental/emotional state, and the immune system. It’s also a family-friendly workout, which can train children in the importance, and the fun, of exercise at all ages.
1. Increased Cardiovascular Health
Even a leisurely bicycle ride will improve cardiovascular health. The legs must constantly pump in order to propel the bicycle, which increases the heart rate, the blood circulation, and the respiration rate. For building stamina, bicycling is better than running and it’s less likely to injure your body.
2. Muscle And Joint Flexibility And Strength
Bicycle riding is also better for building muscle than running; runners need to stay slim and lean, not bulky. The action involved in lengthening and stretching the leg muscles when pedaling will keep them limber and less likely to cramp. Joints that are regularly exercised will be less likely to become stiff and arthritic when using a low-impact exercise such as bicycle riding.
3. Stronger Bones
Bones age as the body ages and this can result in osteoporosis. Since bones are living organs, when they are subjected to force, such as exercise, they react by making more cells, which increases their density and reduces the likelihood of fractures. Exercise such as bike riding improves coordination and balance, which further reduces the risk of falls and fractures. Bicycling is a low-impact aerobic exercise that can help older adults and those with limited mobility issues obtain the exercise they need to keep their bones strong and healthy. When bones are strong, posture will be better, and the coordination involved in riding a bicycle will improve coordination overall.
4. Bicycling And The Immune System
In recent studies, bicycle riding appeared to have anti-aging effects and to positively impact the immune system. The thymus gland, part of the lymphatic system, is responsible for protecting the body from disease but its function starts to decline after about age 20. Bicycling seems to reverse the functional decline of the thymus and improve the immune system.
5. Decreased Levels Of Stress And Anxiety/Depression
Many times, individuals can become depressed about their life or the circumstances in which they find themselves. Bicycle riding can be a solitary experience or it can be a social interaction experience, it’s up to the rider. Exercise releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural mood enhancers and riding a bicycle can alleviate the feelings of depression that can accompany social isolation or frustration with your life situation.
6. Reduce The Risk Of Developing Diabetes
Diabetes is becoming a national health crisis due, in part, to our largely sedentary lifestyle and poor dietary habits. A large-scale study performed in Finland showed that those who rode a bicycle for at least 30 minutes each day reduced their likelihood of developing diabetes by approximately 40 percent.
7. Decreased Body Fat
Bicycling is exercise so it will burn fat as long as you don’t replace the fat you’ve burned with high-fat foods or extra calories. Fat consumption is regulated by your level of exercise as well as your personal metabolic rate, but there are ways to increase the rate of fat consumption when bicycle riding, if losing fat is your goal.
Riding before breakfast, called a fasting ride, can burn extra calories because the body is already in a fasting state from sleeping overnight. Although the reasons are unclear, this method worked better for men than women. Pushing your body to its limits can result in a substantial fat-burning, cardio workout that builds muscle and reduces appetite.
But I’m An Amputee….
Those who have lost the use of their legs can still receive the benefits of bicycle riding through the use of a hand cycle. They’re available in a variety of styles so they are adaptable to most disabilities, and can provide the same benefits as leg-powered cycles.
No matter your age or the state of your physical health, bicycle riding can be of benefit for almost everyone. It’s so adaptable that it can fit almost every need and physical limitation. It doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment and you can do it almost anywhere you like. It’s stress-free and can lower your stress level and improve your overall health, so find yourself a bicycle and get to riding. In fact, find bicycles for the entire family and start teaching your kids about the benefits and enjoyment of bicycle riding.