Cycling has long been recognised as one of the best forms of exercise, but exactly what benefits can this simple activity provide? Research has shown that a wide variety of health perks can be obtained by regularly getting on your bike.
Our immune system, which protects against infections and various systemic diseases, can be boosted by the activity created when we cycle, as can the many muscles which need to be in good shape and used regularly to keep good fitness and health. This is particularly important in older people, and cycling can be an ideal form of moderate exercise for this age group.
While cycling we use an amazing number of muscles; leg muscles for pedalling, back and abdominal muscles for stabilising the body and arm and shoulder muscles on the handle bars. We may not be conscious of using all these different muscle groups, but nonetheless they are all being exercised, making them stronger and more efficient.
The skeleton is also benefited by the exercise, which has a positive effect on strength and bone density, and of course as the muscles are strengthened, they help to protect the skeleton to which they are attached. The bones of the spine, in particular, can benefit from cycling; the posture required and the movement of the legs strengthens the muscles of the lower spine and works the smaller muscles around the vertebrae which are not often exercised. All of this strengthens the spinal column and helps reduce back problems by holding discs in place.
Those who suffer with diseases like arthritis can benefit from cycling because the circular motion transports energy to the joints, which aids the movement of both cartilage and joints, and most doctors will recommend that sufferers exercise. Many fear pain while doing so, but in fact exercise like cycling will keep the joints mobile for longer and can help in reducing the advancement of the disease.
Another often unknown benefit of cycling is that of stress reduction. Few things are more relaxing than cycling along through pleasant surroundings at a steady pace, with nothing more to worry about than control of your bike. In addition, oxygen is flowing into yourlungs and heart, which produces a feeling of wellbeing and thus a stress-free mind. The heart in particular benefits from regular cycling – working the heart makes it stronger and less vulnerable to disease. In fact, regular cycling has been shown to reduce the risk of a heart attack by up to 50%.
For those who are overweight, cycling can be the perfect activity. As well as burning off calories, 70% of the body weight is carried by the saddle, allowing for safe and comfortable exercising.
Whatever your age group, body weight or shape, cycling will definitely improve your fitness, health and well-being, so get out in the fresh air and give it a try.