Health Benefits of Cycling: 6 Reasons Cycling Is Good For You

Healthy benefits of cycling

Verywell / Amelia Manley

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Have you thought about cycling to work or going for a ride in a park or on local trails? Maybe you’re considering joining a spin class at the gym. Whether indoors or out, riding a bike is an excellent, low-impact, and versatile form of exercise.

Plus, you will reduce your environmental impact when you trade in your vehicle for a bike. But, the biggest benefit you get from riding a bike is the boost it gives to your mental and physical health. Here is what you need to know about the many health benefits of cycling.

Who Cycling Is For

There are many options for getting into cycling. Those who enjoy nature or like to exercise with friends may prefer to ride a bicycle around their neighborhood or in a local park. Meanwhile, others want to be environmentally friendly and use a bicycle to get to work; and some may prefer to use a stationary exercise bike to mitigate the risk of falls or avoid the cost of buying a bicycle.

Regardless of the motives, you cannot go wrong with cycling. It is a versatile, low-cost, low-impact exercise that is accessible to most people of various ages and fitness levels.

That said, cycling isn’t guaranteed to work for everyone. For this reason, it is important to talk to a healthcare provider before you take up cycling.

They can evaluate your medical history and fitness level to determine if cycling is right for. You also may benefit from talking with a personal trainer or a cycling coach for ideas on how to get started.

Health Benefits of Cycling 

Cycling is an aerobic exercise just like walking, jogging, or running. However, cycling is often set apart because it is a low-impact exercise that also can double as a mode of transportation. If you are prone to injuries or have a medical condition that makes walking or running challenging, cycling can be a great alternative because it is easier on the muscles and joints. 

Plus, the option to use a stationary bike makes it even more accessible. Indoor cycling provides an opportunity for aerobic exercise to people who may not be able to perform other aerobic exercises. Here are some additional health benefits to cycling.

Enhances Executive Function

Some research indicates that cycling may improve your executive function, which is a measurement of our functional ability as people. It is not an all-encompassing measure of a person, but it is a way to consider their ability to complete necessary daily tasks that require balance, coordination, and memory.

Some people struggle with executive function, especially as they age. But research suggests that cycling and exercise can help improve executive function if practiced consistently. It may even help other aspects of cognitive function like processing speed and memory function.

Improves Mental Health

Mental illness has been linked to poor overall health in the long term. Many symptoms are directly related to the stress that comes from struggling with mental health issues, such as hypertension, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol. To protect your health, it is crucial to take care of your mental health, too.

One way to accomplish that is through cycling. The exercise, sunlight, and positive social interaction you get when cycling, especially with others, can boost your mental health and improve overall well-being.

In fact, research suggests that cycling—particularly outdoors—can improve your mental and physical health. In one study, researchers noted that the participants with mental health conditions that participated in an outdoor cycling program reported feelings of personal mastery, equal status, solidarity, community, and healing.

Boosts Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular health represents how healthy your heart and overall cardiovascular system are. Generally, you can take care of your cardiovascular system by including aerobic exercise in your routine while poor cardiovascular health can lead to stroke, heart attack, arrhythmia, and heart disease.

Research suggests that biking is an excellent way to improve your cardiovascular health. It is a form of aerobic exercise and, therefore, helps strengthen your cardiovascular system. One study shows that any form of cycling is beneficial, so stationary bikes and bicycles would both be viable options.

Improves Balance and Gait

Balance and gait are necessary to walk and carry out daily tasks. It’s vital to maintain these skills as you age. But, these skills can be difficult for some people, especially those who have had a stroke.

Fortunately, studies have shown that cycling consistently, even on a stationary bike, can improve your overall balance and gait. In fact, repetitive motor training can help stroke patients recover motor function. And because walking and cycling are similar in muscle use, stationary cycling can be a low-impact option for those in recovery.

Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Insulin controls your blood sugar, so when your cells become insulin resistant, there is an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes causes your blood sugar to be imbalanced, which can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, vision loss, and more. Typically, symptoms occur gradually, so it is not always noticeable if a person is developing diabetes.

But, research has found that recreational and commuter cycling can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. To lower your risk, you would have to cycle consistently, especially because your risk decreases significantly the longer you continue to include cycling in your routine. Even beginning to cycle later in life will still lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, which means it is rarely too late to start.

Provides for Active Recovery

Workout recovery is important and can help avoid burnout and injury from exercise. Of particular importance is active recovery, which involves doing light exercise instead of completely resting.

Research has found active recovery reduces delayed onset muscle soreness. This means including cycling as part of an active recovery.

Improves Sleep

If a person is not moving throughout most of the day, they would be considered sedentary and being inactive can affect your health and sleep. This means that you should replace times when you would be sedentary with movement.

In one study, the subjects were students who sit and study often. Research showed that cycling on a stationary bike while studying helped to improve their sleep. Meanwhile another study involving veterans and disabled athletes found that participating in a large cycling event helped to improve both sleep quality and quality of life.

Provide Low Impact Exercise

Low-impact exercise describes an exercise that is non-weight-bearing, which means it puts minimal stress or weight on your joints. Low-impact exercises are very important for those in physical recovery, those who are disabled, older adults, people with joint problems, and many other people whose bodies require non-weight-bearing exercise.

Many times, people who cannot walk or run are able to cycle. Cycling is a great low-impact exercise, especially if you use a stationary bike, which can also reduce the risk of falls.

A Word From Verywell

Cycling is a versatile, low-impact, low-cost exercise that can benefit most people. Plus, you have the option of riding indoors on a stationary bike or taking your bike for a spin outside, which makes it an accessible option.

There are also a number of health benefits from cycling including improved mental health, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and reduced muscle soreness after exercising.

If you have any underlying health conditions, are prone to injuries or falls, or are new to exercise, it is important to speak to a healthcare provider before you get started, though. They can assess your medical history and your fitness level and determine if cycling is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much biking a day is healthy?

    The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest that adults do two and half to five hours (or 150 to 300 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week for substantial health benefits. Aerobic exercise includes cycling, walking, jogging, running, dancing, swimming, and more.

  • What muscles benefit from cycling?

    When cycling, you are using your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals. If riding an outdoor bicycle, you will also be using your calf muscles, abdominals, erector spinae, and upper body muscles.

  • How long does it take to see results from cycling?

    There are a lot of factors that determine how long it will take to see results from any workout. However, a general estimate is about one month. The best way to see results is consistency with your workout schedule.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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