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The bicycle is the first mode of transportation for all of us. Who didn’t get on a bike for the first time when they were a few years old? For small children, it’s incredible fun, something that allows them to take their feet off the ground and ride where their eyes can see. It’s the first Ferrari for a little person. With the passing of years, a bicycle is becoming more and more popular among young people, where it used to be an indispensable part of leaving home and visiting friends. Computer, games, television come to the foreground. A young man grows up and instead of a bicycle he gets on a scooter, an e-scooter, and later on a car.

Many of us have been through this cycle, and there are many more stories to come.

What is the problem?
Why do people of a certain age give it up?
What are the health benefits of cycling?

With an explanation come 2 scientific studies. They investigated the frequency of bicycle use in age groups and by gender. They found that boys aged 11-15 ride the most miles/person on a bike (32.5% of boys vs 9.4% of girls), followed by men aged 16-59. Let’s stop with boys for a moment – according to the data, boys from rural areas and areas where cycling was more visible than those from the city or areas where bikes on road transport were a rare sight.

The large age range in the second group (men aged 16-59 years) is puzzling. Why is there such a disparity? According to the survey, commuting to work, university, or school by bike at this age is a sign of low social status and poverty.

The belief among this group said that cycling is unattractive because:

– there may be rainfall,
– there are traffic hazards,
– causes more time loss,
– we inhale exhaust fumes,
– there are hills,
– the dress code at work does not allow you to travel to work by bicycle.

At the other extreme, commuters say that cycling is :

– pleasant,
– cheap,
– comfortable,
– healthy.

Well, and we just got to the point of this article. Cycling is healthy! It has a positive influence on our body in many ways. In the age of computers and sedentary work, or even lying down (“hello work from home!”), where many sports clubs, swimming pools, gyms are closed, it is cycling and running that comes to our aid to keep us physically active on a daily basis. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to pandemic times, but also to everyone’s daily healthy routine.

9 Health Benefits of Cycling

 

Below I will describe, based on research, 15 reasons why cycling is healthy, attractive, and best for us in terms of introducing movement into our lives!

1. Cycling extends life!

 

According to a 2013 study by Sahlqvist et al – as little as 60 minutes of moderate-intensity cycling/week reduces the risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular problems.

60 minutes per week is really not much. Just take your bike out for a trip to do a little shopping, the post office, the ATM, or the pharmacy.

The Netherlands is famous for its bicycles and cycling conditions. The country’s picturesque landscapes even encourage people to get on their bikes! Another interesting study related to this country says that the Dutch live about half a year longer thanks to cycling and this is associated with an increase in Dutch GDP of about 3%! [1]

In another Dutch study, Jeroen de Hartog et al. in 2010 considered the balance of gains and losses associated with switching from car to bike. [1]

Looking at it from an individual point of view, the benefits of the study include: increased physical activity, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and lower exhaust emissions. However, there is also increased exposure to air pollution and the risk of accidents. While it’s hard to talk about the risk of accidents, because there are a lot of variables that are not always measurable in my opinion (after all, driving a car also includes the risk of an accident), the balance of exposure to air pollution vs. increased physical activity is quite interesting!

According to the results, switching from a car to a bike gives us between 3 and 14 more months of life, and increased exposure to air pollution takes away between 0.8 days and 40 days. As you can easily recalculate switching to a bicycle gives us 50 more days of life at worst, and 419 more days at best!

2. Cycling improves our lipid profile!

 

Everyone has heard of that “bad cholesterol” and “good cholesterol” at some point. That’s what this lipid profile is all about! According to the recommendation, each of us should do a lipid profile test once a year! Is our dear bike able to help us improve this parameter?

According to a Norwegian study from 2010, switching from a car to a bike for a year with an uncontrolled diet raises the level of that “good cholesterol” HDL by 15,3%! [2]

Regulating and properly balancing your diet would improve this result even more!

3. Cycling lowers blood pressure!

 

Not to be without an argument in this subsection, I found for you a very interesting study from 2016, where the subjects were divided into two groups.  The first one had normal blood pressure, while the second one suffered from hypertension. Cycling training at a frequency of 3x per week was introduced into their lives for 8 weeks. [3] The results were promising! In the high blood pressure group, a reduction in systolic heart pressure from 145.4 ± 9.0 to 118.3 ± 15.6 mm Hg was noted after completing the entire training cycle. No significant change was noted in diastolic blood pressure values. However, the change in systolic blood pressure values resulted in 73% of the subjects in the high blood pressure group discontinuing their medication! So you have a problem with hypertension? Get on your bike!

4. Cycling improves our lung capacity and fitness!

 

I did not discover anything new with that. I will not call myself Christopher Columbus because it is obvious! Cycling is a physical activity and it improves the capacity of our body! It doesn’t matter at what level of advancement. To confirm this I will quote a Danish study wherein February 2009 on the island of Funen in Denmark, 48 people were divided into 2 groups, which were initially examined for vital signs. [4] The first group did not change anything in their lives in terms of physical activity, while the second group was told to ride a bike for at least 20 minutes a day. The study lasted for 8 weeks. At the end of the study, it was confirmed that unprogrammed cycling (without any training plan) increases exercise capacity and maximal oxygen ceiling!

5. Cycling lowers body fat!

 

The same study I described in subsection #4 examined skinfold thickness in addition to aspects of fitness improvement. These were summed at the start of the study and after 8 weeks. The addition of cycling in daily life resulted in a loss of 7 to 12 mm of skin folds. The subjects’ diet was not controlled in any way; participants could eat anything for 8 weeks – ad libitum! [5] (Read more does cycling burn belly fat?)

6. Cycling prevents type 2 diabetes

 

A study also conducted in Denmark published in 2016 examined the risk of type 2 diabetes in a group of recreational cyclists and in a group of commuters who cycle to work. [6] The subjects completed a questionnaire on cycling habits and vital signs. After 5 years, they filled it out again. The researchers analyzed what had changed in the subjects’ lives and attitudes toward cycling over those years and whether the subjects appeared on the National Diabetes Registry’s sick list. The results represented that any regular cycling for several weeks, even if it was just implemented a few weeks before the study presented a significant decrease in the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The study did not take into account people who cycled using controlled and programmed training units. Regular training units involve “legal” snacking during workouts. Who wouldn’t want to eat cycling treats such as rice cakes or energy balls/bites without reproach?

7. Cycling positively affects memory!

 

I found a very cool study from 2011 evaluating a cognitive function, including memory among 3 groups of subjects aged 40-56. [7]

The subjects were divided based on their physical activity or lack thereof for six months.

The first group performed no activity, the second group cycled 2x per week in an unprogrammed manner, and the last group performed muscle stretching and motor coordination training 2x per week.

All groups were tested using tests for memory, reaction speed, or spatial reasoning. The results for the cycling group confirmed an improvement in memory due to the fact that blood circulation was improved.

8. Cycling is a reason to meet people!

 

As we well know we are in the age of pandemonium. Extroverts are fed up with the isolation and try to use any easing of restrictions to meet other people. How about volunteering at a cycling club or loose cycling group near you that organizes training sessions together? 2 benefits in one! Meeting people and doing sport? That sounds great nowadays!

9. Cycling delays dementia!

 

Bicycling is a great tool for fighting dementia! For good measure, cycling is recommended for people of all ages and for rehabilitation of almost any injury!  Plus, it also improves mood, well-being, and cognitive function. A 2019 study looked at doing physical activity and being outdoors for a condition related to dementia. The study included 100 people between the ages of 50 and 83. [8] Twenty-six people in this group were a control group who did no activity, 36 people used an electric bike, and 38 people rode a bike that had motorized pedal assistance. The study lasted 8 weeks and the subjects had to ride 3x a week for a minimum of 30 minutes for each ride. The results are interesting in that not only was physical activity taken into account, but also regular time spent outdoors. Both bike groups showed improvements in cognitive brain function scores. The assisted group showed an improvement in reaction speed, and most interestingly, those who rode only an electric bike that did not require pedaling improved their mental health parameters compared to those who were inactive!

If your parents or grandparents are elderly, offer them a bike ride to a secluded spot. It doesn’t have to be a couple of hours or a whole day. It doesn’t have to be a pedal cycle. Consider an electric bike for your parents or grandparents, and the time spent outdoors will improve the lives and well-being of your loved ones.

Cycling is the easiest way to incorporate physical activity into your life!

 

There’s no denying that. Estimates suggest that as little as 60 minutes a week is enough to see the positive effects of introducing cycling into your daily life.

Try to implement cycling into your daily life as active transportation to work. If you don’t have a:

– dress code – suit, suit, shirt,
– further than 7km,
– early wake-up time, and a bike ride to work would shorten your sleep,
– or work from home.

then don’t hesitate and start pedaling to work!

However, if one of these points excludes you then try to do a family bike ride on the weekend for an hour or more and you can also cycle to the stores, pharmacy, or ATM.

If you go to the gym or train in parks, a great addition and warm-up to your strength training will be commuting by bike. You will not only see an increase in strength through training but an increase in fitness through cycling.

Resources:

1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20587380/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26066942/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24231462/

2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20567277/

3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29424402/

4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27096619/

5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21708185/

6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27403867/

7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21895371/

8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30785893

Coach Damian

Damian is a head coach and founder of Cyklopedia, which was created with one goal to help everyone be faster cyclists by structured training plans, healthy recipes, and nutrition plans. Damian is racing and coaching for over 10 years, working with athletes all around the world.

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