We cyclists know just how good a ride makes us feel; in fact, when we have gaps in our cycling routine, many of us tend to become a little irritable and generally take less joy in day to day life. As I’ve gotten older, I also find that as soon as I stop cycling, I just pile the weight on! But apart from our personal experiences of the benefits of cycling, science also provides strong evidence of just how good cycling is for us. Here’s twelve good reasons to get on your bike – and that’s just the beginning of cycling benefits! – enjoy.
Stanford University School of Medicine researchers invited a group of insomniacs to a study on cycling. Each of these people was tasked to cycle for 20-30 minutes on alternate days. The results were quite surprising even in the short term: The insomniacs all fell to sleep in half of the time they usually required, and their sleep-time also increased by an hour.
Of course, with sleep, it’s not just the cycling exercise that helps, but the exposure to the outdoors and natural daylight that cycling provides. This exposure helps to realign the body’s circadian rhythm which is often disrupted by shift work and other unnatural lifestyle habits.
How young you look and how slowly you age depends on two key factors – your genetic inheritance and your lifestyle – and you can do something about the latter!
At Stanford University in the US, studies have shown that cycling stimulates your defenses and can help to protect your skin against the wear and tear of daily life, including UV damage caused by the sun. This is because increased circulation increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the skin, and flushes out the toxins that accelerate aging. Finally, all of this creates a great body environment for the generation of collagen which keeps skin supple and reduces wrinkle development.
Improved Bowel Function
This one’s a little close to my heart, as I suffer from Ulcerative Colitis – a severe inflamamtory condition of the colon. Te only thing thyat really keeps this at bay for me and gets my body to behave is cycling regularly. I’m not a doctor and I can’t tell you why this is – but for me it’s simply true.
At Bristol University in the UK, research has shown that the beneﬁts of cycling extend deep into your core. “Physical activity helps decrease the time it takes food to move through the large intestine, limiting the amount of water absorbed back into your body and leaving you with softer stools, which are easier to pass,” explains Harley Street gastroenterologist Dr Ana Raimundo.
We also know that cycling stimulates the contraction of abdominal muscles and that tyhe overall health effect is to increase your resistance to bowel cancer.
Boosted Immune System
According to research from the University of North Carolina, people who cycle for 30 minutes, ﬁve days a week, take about half as many sick days as their sedentary counterparts. There’s a lot more evidence of this type, but this seems so bovious that well leave it there!
Add Years To Your Life
King’s College London compared over 2,400 identical twins and found those who did the equivalent of just three 45-minute rides a week were nine years ‘biologically younger’ even after discounting other inﬂuences, such as body mass index (BMI) and smoking.
Improved Sex Life Sex
A study by researchers at Cornell University revealed that male athletes have the sexual prowess of men two to ﬁve years younger, with physically ﬁt females delaying the menopause by a similar amount of time. Backing this up is research from Harvard University which showed that men aged over 50 who cycle for at least three hours a week have a 30 percent lower risk of impotence than those who do little exercise.
Improved Heart and Lung Function
Studies from Purdue University in the US have shown that regular cycling can cut your risk of heart disease by 50 percent – and it doesn’t take an extreme regime to achieve a huge improvement. In fact, cycling only 20 miles a week reduces your risk of heart disease to less than half that of those who take no exercise. I suppose this is obvious, but it’s still impressive!
Resistance to Cancer
Just cycling a few miles to and from work each day can reduce your chances of getting cancer by as much as 50%. This was confirmed by Finnish researchers. Other studies have found that women who cycle frequently reduce their risk of breast cancer by 34 percent. Wow!
Controlled and Substantial Weight Loss
How I wish I’d taken before and after photos! In February 2015 I took up cycling after a 23 year gap ; I cold hardly balance myself on my new bike! Let no one evr tell you again that you can never forget how to ride a bike- I am living proof of the falsity of that assertion! But that’s another story for another article!
p>I had become horribly overweight during my years of cycling abstinence and tipped the scale at 270lb – 123kg! Even at six feet tall, this is grossly overweight. I started by just trying to get around the block – which was a shocking struggle. I had really expected that my years of long distance cycling as a younger man would make ‘getting back into it’ quite easy – and I was wrong!
With little determination though, I persisted and increased my distances up to 50km or 30 miles. Over the course of six months I lost 50lb – 23 kg – and still drank and ate heartily – no diet necessary!
I write – I’ve always written I guess, and like all writers and artists, I have my creative moments and long periods where I seem to have no insight into anything and simply can’t be creative. These ‘dark periods’ can be quite depressing!
I have found that cycling really dpoes boost my creativity, but it also enhances my concentration and capacity to sit still and so real work. Studies have shown that this effect is due to enhanced oxygen flow to the brain that continues long after a ride is over, vastly improving the productivity and creativity of those blessed with a bike.
The Cycling High
If you’ve read the introduction to our new blog on the landing page of this site, you’ll know exactly how I have experienced this ‘high’ which is common to all athletes. University of Bonn neurologists investigated the phenomenon by examining endorphins in the brains of 10 volunteers before and after a two-hour cardio session using a technique called positive emission tomography (PET). The resukts were starling and prompted Professor Henning Boecker to say: “There’s a direct link between feelings of well-being and exercise, and for the ﬁrst time this study proves the physiological mechanism behind that,”. This is a great high – and it’s legal!
Dealing with Depression
Climbing into the saddle when you’re feeling down can be a daunting prospect – especially if you’re within reach of a beer! But trust me, you need to elave the beer until after the ride, and you’ll enjoy it x a thousand. This also has a solid scientific basis. Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation says “Any mild-to-moderate exercise releases natural feel-good endorphins that help counter stress and make you happy.”
SO GET ON YOUR BIKE AND RIDE!!!