The Hidden Benefits of Biking

Recent reports show that more Americans bike to work now than ever before. If you feel like you see more cyclists on the road, that’s probably because the number of people who bike to work has jumped by about 60 percent in less than two decades. That doesn’t even include the people who bike for fun.

Why the sudden surge in commuting via bike? There are a lot of benefits to riding a bike. Many people have just started to realize that they can reap those benefits while eliminating the worst parts of their days: sitting in traffic during rush hour.

Cycling Burns Calories and Has a Short Recovery Time

benefits of biking

Image via Flickr by Montgomery County Planning Commission

When it comes to the health benefits of exercise, it’s hard to beat what you get from cycling.

Researchers studying the differences between long-distance runners and long-distance cyclists found that cyclists get more exercise while experiencing considerably less wear and tear on the body.

Running long distances burns a lot of calories, but the heavy impact on pavement or dirt stresses the body. Cycling doesn’t have that downside.

That means cyclists can get longer workouts with faster recovery times.

It gets more complicated when you compare how many calories a person burns while running or cycling because factors like weight and speed influence the results. Often, though, people riding bikes will burn more calories than runners.

A 160-pound person running for an hour at 5 mph will burn about 614 calories. That same person biking for an hour at 12 mph will burn about 633. That might not sound like a big difference until you consider that the cyclist’s body won’t feel nearly as damaged the following day, which means he or she is more likely to go out for more exercise.

It Helps You Ride Your Way to Deeper Sleep

Biking, like other forms of exercise, can help people get deeper, more restful sleep.

When a person exercises, the body experiences physical stress. The brain helps the body recover by spending more time in stage four (deep) sleep.

Regular biking also means that people spend more time outside in the sunlight. This frequent exposure to sunlight improves circadian rhythms that tell the body it’s time to sleep after the sun sets. Without enough exposure to light, circadian rhythms can get disrupted, making it difficult to sleep during appropriate times.

Biking Improves Heart Health

A large study released by the British Medical Association shows that riding a bike for 20 miles a week can reduce a person’s risk of developing coronary heart disease by 50 percent.

Cycling also offers general improvements in cardiovascular health. Just a daily bike ride to and from work can improve a person’s cardiovascular fitness by 3 to 7 percent, says the British Medical Association’s study. That creates a lifetime of benefits (including longer life expectancy).

It Promotes Less Pollution for Healthier Cities

Each person driving his or her car doesn’t create much pollution. When hundreds of thousands of people drive, though, cities can become exhaust-filled nightmares.

Biking helps reduce air pollution, which has a positive influence on the health of everyone in the area. About 40 percent of Americans live in places with bad air quality. It’s no surprise then that 30 percent of childhood asthma cases are linked to environmental factors.

If more people would ride bikes, air quality would improve. That would likely mean lower asthma rates among children. It’s a big deal when you consider that 3,000 people die from asthma attacks every year and nearly 2 million people visit emergency rooms because of attacks.

Biking Delivers a Full Body Workout Without a Gym Membership

It’s obvious that regular biking will tone your legs. Depending on the terrain, the muscles that work hardest while biking are the:

  • calf muscles
  • hamstrings
  • quadriceps

The gluteus maximus also work hard, which can give you a rocking booty.

Cyclists actually use more muscle groups than that, though. They also use a lot of support muscles, including the triceps, abdominals, and back muscles. That means they get full body workouts that will tone most major muscle groups.

Individual biking styles and terrains affect which muscle groups get used most, but regardless, anyone on a bike can get a good workout without paying for a gym membership.

Cycling Saves You Money

Casual biking won’t save you a lot of money. Considering that the average car gets about 23 miles per gallon, you’ll have to pedal pretty far before you see real savings.

The real financial savings happen when you replace one car with a bike. That’s not feasible in some areas, but people who live in cities should consider whether the change makes sense for their household budgets.

A good commuter bike will probably cost you $200 to $300. You can spend thousands, but it’s not necessary. You’ll also need some safety equipment, including lights, reflective tape, and a helmet. Overall, expect to spend about $400 on your new bike.

You’ll recoup that money in no time, especially if you sell your current vehicle.

According to some estimates, it costs $308 per year to own a bike while it costs $8,220 to own a car. When you replace a car with a bike, you reduce or eliminate the cost of:

  • fuel
  • maintenance (bikes are much cheaper to fix than cars)
  • car insurance
  • oil changes
  • property taxes

Imagine life without a car insurance bill. That alone should tempt a lot of people to start pedaling more and driving less.

It Helps You Enjoy Better, More Frequent Sex

If better health and fewer expenses doesn’t convince you to start riding a bike, maybe you’ll find the promise of better, more frequent sex compelling.

It all has to do with the aerobic exercise that people get while cycling.

Research has shown that vigorous exercise makes women more responsive to sexual advances from their mates. Men report that regular exercise encourages them to have sex more often. Both sexes say they have more satisfying orgasms when they exercise.

Now that you know more about the benefits of biking, do you think you will start riding a bike more often? What benefit do you find most persuasive?

 

Jonathan Holloway (6 Posts)

Jonathan is a blogger at NoExam.com that writes about insurance, personal finance, lifestyle, and sports.


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