You likely already know that cycling is a great workout — but what exactly makes it such an awesome way to get in shape?
Whether you’re crushing a cycling sprint indoors or zooming along a road where you’re dealing with wind resistance and weather, many of the benefits of cycling are the same.
You’ll make the most of speed, intensity, and duration, but there are many other advantages as well.
Here are six benefits of cycling to consider.
1. Easier on the Joints Than Running
If you’re looking for a low-impact option, indoors or outside, cycling provides an excellent choice, says Garret Seacat, C.S.C.S., a USA Cycling coach.
“Not only are you minimizing the stress on your joints, but you’re also strengthening the muscles around them, so that creates more stability,” he says, adding that the movement also lubricates the joint, which can also support joint health.
2. Helps Improve Balance
Although you’re not being tasked with balancing on one foot the way you sometimes are in yoga and weight lifting (think: single leg deadlift), cycling can still give you big-time benefits for your balance, according to physical therapist Bianca Beldini, D.P.T., a USA Triathlon coach.
“Outdoor riding challenges core stability,” she says. “Balancing the body’s center of mass over moving wheels requires greater low back, pelvis, and hip recruitment.”
3. May Improve Bone Health
Higher-impact activities like running and jumping are often promoted for their bone-building benefits thanks to the body’s adaptive response to the stresses they produce.
But it’s possible to improve bone density with cycling as well — as long as you’re willing to get a little bumpy.
A study in the European Journal of Sport Science found that the “exposure to ground impact bone strain” experienced during mountain biking can have a distinctly beneficial effect on bone strength.
4. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Anyone who has ever tried to bike up a hill or even push their pace on flat ground has felt how challenging it can be for the heart and lungs.
Do it regularly enough, and your body will rise to the challenge by strengthening those organs and improving the functioning of your entire cardiorespiratory system.
But don’t just take our word for it — a 20-year Danish study of more than 50,000 people showed conclusively that even recreational cycling can improve cardiovascular health significantly when performed consistently.
5. Can Help With Fat Loss
A combination of diet and exercise will always be more powerful for achieving fat loss than either one alone.
However, calorie-burning through activity plays a significant role. How much will depend on factors like your weight and level of energy expenditure.
Cycling is a solid cardio choice when it comes to burning calories.
According to the Compendium of Physical Activities, cycling at a leisurely pace of about 12 miles per hour comes in at 8 METs (which stands for metabolic equivalent of task).
That means that a 150-pound person may burn around 540 calories an hour even while cycling leisurely.
Pedal faster and harder, and you’ll see even greater calorie burn!
6. Provides a Mental Boost
Physical activity in any form can sharpen your mental powers, and that includes regular cycling.
A study published in The Lancet looked at the connection between exercise and mental health in more than 1.2 million adults and tweezed out the results by sport.
Those who cycled either indoors or outside reported 21% fewer poor mental health days.
In another study, published in Scientific Reports, participants underwent memory tests after different bouts of cycling.
Researchers found that the activity improved their recall even after only 15 minutes of a single session!
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