8 ways cycling benefits your mind, fitness and health

Image of a man riding in a cycle class

Boost body and brains on the bike

It’s not breaking news that cycling will help increase your fitness levels. Regular pedaling is great for cardiovascular fitness, increases muscle strength and is easy on the joints, but there are a lot more health benefits that cycling brings – as well as cognitive benefits too.

Take a look at our health and fitness benefits of cycling and you’ll be finding the nearest spin class to join:

1. A big calorie burn

Cruising along on a bike - in a cycle class or on the open road - at 20-22kph can burn about 500 calories in an hour, but add some hills, resistance or speed to that, watch your watts rise and you can double your power output as well as your calorie burn.

2. Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

Regular cycling stimulates your heart, lungs and circulation, reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

3. Tighten your thighs and tone your calves

Striking the pedals is a great strength workout allowing you to create lean muscle in your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. Foot positioning on the pedal and your strike movement can be manipulated for more focus on individual muscle groups.

4. Improved stamina

Through longer rides and specific training sessions, cycling can help increase your body’s ability to endure extended periods of exercise (stamina), through drawing on energy stores over a periods of time without getting too fatigued.

5. Low impact

Hopping on a bike is great if you’re looking for a low impact exercise with big benefits. Cycling is easy on joints and causes less strains and injuries than other exercises can.

6. Get smarter with better blood flow

Blood flow increases when we cycle – in our muscles and in our brain. More blood vessels in the muscles and brain mean more oxygen and nutrients to help improve performance. In a recent study, scientists found that people scored higher on tests of memory, reasoning and planning after 30 minutes of spinning on a stationery bike than they did before they rode. 

7. Grow your brain with higher cell production

During cycling the brain increases its production of proteins used in cell formation, doubling or tripling new brain cell production with regular riding, literally growing your brain.

8. Better cognitive function

When riding, the brain releases more neurotransmitters (messengers between brain cells) so the old and new brain cells can communicate with each other for better and faster functioning, improving memory and concentration levels to name a few benefits. This is especially important as we grow older because with each year of age, our brains shrink and those connections weaken.

Note: Arthur Kramer, a neuroscientist at the University of Illinois has done a range of research on the connection between physical exercise and mental health, with findings such as “people who exercised had the brain volume of those three years younger” and “adults who exercise display sharper memory skills, higher concentration levels, more fluid thinking, and greater problem-solving ability than those who are sedentary”.

Written by Emily Boylin owner of Alive Fitness and accomplished personal trainer, Emily believes that anyone, anywhere, can change their life through exercise. With a passion for educating her clients on how their bodies work and how they can feel energised and alive simply from moving, Emily has worked with athletes, rehab clients and everyone in between to accomplish their health and fitness goals.

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