So, you have a global pandemic, and what do you know – suddenly everyone is cycling everywhere! The rise in popularity of cycling over the past 14 months has been nothing short of astronomical, and there’s no sign that increased level of interest is coming to an end any time soon.
The success of cycling in recent months is undoubtedly part of the unanticipated collateral spanning from the pandemic, but the hobby was already on the up in recent years due to its environmental, economic and health related benefits. Where the latter is concerned, cycling offers countless health benefits to riders, wrapped up in activity that is fun, accessible and rewarding for all.
If you aren’t part of the new cycling crowd yet, maybe you should be. Here are five big health boosters available to you if you get involved.
Cycling is a highly aerobic activity that can be as tough or easy as you want it to be. As such, it’s great for virtually anyone of any fitness background to help improve their cardio vascular fitness. Because one minute you can be pumping your legs hard up a hill and the next gliding down the other side, cycling has a sense of high intensity interval training (HIIT) about it, which is a brilliant way to get your cardio in order.
Another perk in this regard – cycling is one of those activities that can be considered “sneaky fitness”. By that, we mean because you’re busy having fun pedalling and taking in the sights around you, you’ll often not notice just how hard you’re working. Because of this, it’s a great way to push yourself both physically and mentally.
Muscle strength and flexibility
We’ve all heard of the perils of “skipping leg day” at the gym, but the fact is that training your legs via heavy squats, leg presses and whatever other muscle burning exercises you can think of can be a daunting and all too painful experience for many. The good news for cyclists is that, over time, cycling will help pump up your leg muscles rather nicely, and there’s a good chance after a couple of years of regular cycling that you’ll find yourself with some mighty fine calves and quads that will be the apple of your gym friends’ eyes.
Furthermore, while those gym pals are all busy shortening up their muscles with those heavy strength lifts, cycling will help you improve your flexibility, which you’ll help you enjoy better movement and avoid injury in the future.
Good for your joints
One of the reasons running isn’t for everyone is because of the high impact nature of slapping your feet into the pavement repeatedly over the course of your session. For those with bad knees or any musculoskeletal issues, it’s simply not a good idea to keep subjecting your joints to such repetitive high impact activity, especially in the long term. As such, people suffering from arthritis or naturally weaker joints need to look to low impact exercise, which is where cycling comes in.
Cycling, like swimming, is a virtually no impact activity for your joints that allows you to get your heart rate up and your body working without any high impact related risk of short- or long-term injury. Naturally, just make sure you don’t fall off – even if you are insured!
Mental health benefits
In a world where we are constantly evolving our understanding of mental health and the importance of looking after ourselves on both a physical and mental level, cycling, like virtually any form of exercise, offers the usual share of mental health related benefits through reducing anxiety and stress, while boosting self-esteem and cognitive function.
The additional perk to cycling in this regard is the nature of the journeys you can go on as part of the activity. Rest assured that a sense of adventure, a whole load of fresh air and a lovely view are certainly no bad things to have as part of your weekly exercise routine.
Long term health management
Again, perhaps a more generalist one here, but getting involved with a hobby like cycling – where you commit to and enjoy the activity – is a great way to help safeguard your body against serious health issues in the future. Problems we all want to avoid like a stroke, heart attack, diabetes, depression and some cancers have a lower chance of affecting someone who is regularly exercising, and cycling is the perfect everyday activity to help with that.
There are your five-a-day health benefits of cycling. If you like the sound of everything you’ve read above, the great news is it’s never too late to get involved in cycling – all you need is a bike, some safety gear and a general idea of how to balance on two wheels are you’re good to go.
And with millions of new cyclists having come onto the scene in the last year, you’ll certainly not be the only one joining in the fun.