Cycling is a low impact aerobic exercise that offers a wealth of benefits. It also varies in intensity, so it’s suitable for all levels. You can cycle as a mode of transportation, for casual activity, or as an intense, competitive endeavor.
Cycling is a wonderful workout that keeps you active. It can help shape a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally.
Continue reading to take a look at some of the ways cycling can enhance your fitness level and well-being.
1. Cycling may help you lose weight
Additional studies suggest that including sprint and strength training with regular cycling may temporarily increase your metabolism and build muscle, which allows you to burn more calories, even while at rest (2).
2. Cycling will help strengthen your legs
Cycling improves overall function in your lower body and strengthens your leg muscles without overstressing your joints. It targets your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
To make your legs even stronger and enhance your cycling performance, try doing weightlifting exercises, such as squats, leg presses, and lunges, a few times per week (
3. Cycling is good for beginners
Riding a bike is fairly simple. If you have difficulty with a standard bicycle, stationary bikes are a great alternative.
If you’re new to fitness or bouncing back from an injury or illness, you can cycle at a low intensity. As you get more fit, you can increase the intensity or continue to cycle at a chill pace.
Studies have shown that even sedentary people reap the health benefits of cycling, so it can be a great introduction for exercise novices (1).
4. Cycling may lower cholesterol
The health-enhancing effects of cycling may help improve cholesterol levels, which can boost your cardiovascular health and lower your chances of stroke and heart attack.
According to one review of 300 studies, indoor cycling has a positive effect on total cholesterol. It may boost HDL (good) cholesterol levels while lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels (
5. Cycling boosts mental health and brain power
Cycling can ease feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety. Focusing on the road or your cadence when cycling can help you develop concentration and awareness of the present moment. This may help take your focus away from the mental chatter of your day.
Research backs this up. One study found that biking outside improved cognitive functioning and well-being for older adults (
If you find yourself feeling lethargic, listless, or like your brain is moving slowly, get on your bike for at least 10 minutes.
You may feel more confident and content once you make cycling a regular part of your life.
6. Cycling can help people with cancer
Cycling is a fantastic addition to your care plan if you have or are recovering from cancer. However, many cancer patients experience low energy and pain during treatment, so be sure to work with your care team, listen to your body, and exercise only if you’re up for it.
Cycling can also help keep you lean and fit, which may reduce your risk for certain types of cancer, including breast cancer (
7. Cycling can offer a positive start to your morning
Beginning your day with a healthy activity like cycling wakes you up by boosting your circulation and allows you to start your day with a sense of accomplishment.
You may feel more inclined to make healthy, positive choices as the day progresses (8).
The caveat? The research seems to show that this is mainly true for casual bikers, and it’s not recommended that highly trained athletes fast before long endurance rides (
8. Cycling may help prevent and manage medical conditions
Whether you want to prevent health concerns from arising or manage existing conditions, regular exercise is key. Cycling regularly is one way to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and its possible accompanying health concerns.
In fact, very recent research suggests regular cycling can lower mortality rates for people with diabetes by 24% and, if continued for at least 5 years, can decrease mortality rates by 35% (
9. Cycling is environmentally friendly
Reduce your carbon footprint by riding your bike whenever possible. Recent research in Europe found that commuting by bike instead of by car once a day decreases your transportation carbon footprint by 67% (15).
Cycling is a great replacement for transportation options that involve sitting in traffic for extended periods. It’s especially useful when you’re going places that are a bit too far to walk, but you don’t want to take a car.
A bonus is not having to fight for a parking space in crowded areas.
10. Cycling improves balance, posture, and coordination
Balance tends to decline with age and inactivity, so it’s vital to stay on top of it. Improved balance is beneficial in the prevention of falls and fractures, which can help decrease your risk of injury and keep you off the sidelines.
11. Cycling is a low impact option
Cycling is a great option for people who have joint concerns or overall stiffness, especially in the lower body.
12. Cycling may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
Cycling is a fantastic way to raise your heart rate, improve cardiovascular function, and enhance your overall fitness level.
The results of a 2019 review suggest that cycling is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s also associated with lower mortality rates and lower rates of physiological risk factors such as diabetes, physical inactivity, and high blood pressure (
There are a few drawbacks to cycling to consider. These mainly apply to outdoor cycling, which involves variables outside your control.
A serious disadvantage is the risk of an accident, whether in an urban or rural area. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 726 accidental cyclist deaths and 50,000 injuries in 2014 alone (20).
When possible, ride in lanes reserved for cyclists or on neighborhood streets.
Some research has shown that cycle tracks, and streets within 550 meters of the tracks, have fewer collisions between cyclists and vehicles (21).
Always follow traffic laws. Use caution while going through intersections and busy areas, even if you have the right of way. Invest in a quality helmet and any other protective gear you may need.
Avoid wearing any loose clothing that could get caught in your bike chains. Use bike lights and reflective gear for nighttime cycling or early morning cycling before the sun comes up.
If bike-commuting a long way to work, consider bringing a change of clothes to freshen up.
Inclement weather can also be an obstacle. On days when it’s not possible to cycle outside, you can ride a stationary bike or choose another activity.
If cycling is your mode of transportation, invest in rain and cold weather gear and have a backup transportation plan for when conditions are unsafe for riding.
For extended daytime rides, use sunscreen on all exposed skin. Reapply every 2 hours, especially if you’re sweating. Wear UV-protective sunglasses and a hat. Consider investing in UV-protective clothing.
Air pollution is another concern if you’re cycling in a city. You may choose to cycle on days when the air is cleaner or ride on less congested roads.
It’s possible to cycle every day, especially if you use your bicycle for transportation or ride at a low intensity.
Take a break if you experience pain, fatigue, or muscle soreness.
If you’re cycling for fitness, you may want to give yourself at least 1 full day of rest each week — especially if your rides are longer or higher in intensity. Exercise scientists agree that recovery is necessary to prevent injury and enhance performance (22).
This is especially important if you ride at a high intensity or find your body getting sore in specific ways.
If you have any injuries that cycling will affect, it’s best to stay off the bike until you fully recover.
Talk with your doctor if you have any conditions that cycling may affect. People who have concerns with balance, vision, or hearing may prefer a stationary or adaptive bicycle.
If you don’t want to cycle but want to give your body a similar cardio workout, opt for a rowing, stair-climbing, or elliptical machine. You can also run hills, swim, or walk.
Cycling is an enjoyable way to stay healthy and in touch with the world around you.
If the weather is in your favor, hop on your bike and go the distance. Cycling is a wonderful way to explore your local area. And it beats the feeling of boredom that can come from repetitive workouts.
Just play it safe and use caution when necessary, especially on busy roads or during inclement weather.
When the weather is not conducive to outdoor cycling, indoor cycling is a great option that’s somewhat less risky and offers many health benefits.
Either way you ride a bike, appreciate the satisfaction that comes from improving your fitness while having fun.