Numerous studies have found that cycling provides a variety of health benefits. Some of the benefits address specific health concerns, and others result in more general or indirect health benefits. They include:
Clean air – Cycling is non-polluting and can help us breathe easier. Much of the pollutants and irritants in the air are the result of fossil fuel emissions and can cause serious health problems, including asthma, irritation of the lungs, bronchitis, pneumonia, decreased resistance to respiratory infections, and even early death. These health risks are accentuated in children. When people ride bikes instead of driving cars, everyone’s health benefits.
Ease of incorporating it into your life – Cycling generally does not involve a steep learning curve and a lot of expensive equipment (beyond a bike and a helmet, other cycling gear is optional). In most areas, you can cycle year-round, and build it into your daily routine by cycling to work and to do errands. Most people can continue cycling indefinitely. This means that you will be more likely to stick with cycling long-term, and lead a healthier life.
Exposure to sunlight – Vitamin D generated from 15 minutes of sunshine a day can help prevent prostate cancer, breast cancer, and osteoporosis. (Note: Too much sun, however, increases the risk of skin cancer.)
Improved cardiovascular fitness – Cycling strengthens the heart, which improves blood circulation and reduces blood fat levels and resting pulse. Riding as little as 30 minutes every other day meets the American Heart Association’s recommendations for a healthy heart.
Increased joint movement and less pounding – Cycling reduces the risk of arthritis (or inflammation of the joints) caused by worn out cartilage. Exercises like running put more stress on joints and break down cartilage, especially in the knees. Cycling is gentler on joints and can actually strengthen them because the cycling motion provides nourishment that builds up cartilage.
More active lifestyle – Cycling (and other exercise) combats the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, which increases the risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and respiratory ailments. All of these diseases can be prevented – even reversed – with regular exercise. Further, regular exercise increases the heart’s ability to pump blood even when you are sitting still.
Reduced back pain – Cycling (and other exercise) provides nourishment that discs in the spine need for development. The large muscles in the back develop and become stronger. And cycling strengthens the small muscles that support individual vertebrae.
Stress reduction – Moderate exercise, including cycling, reduces stress, which leads to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Stronger immune system – Moderate exercise causes a boost in the immune system by increasing the production of cells that attack bacteria. Going for an easy ride can even make you feel better when you have mild cold symptoms without fever.
Sweating – Cycling causes most people to sweat, which is good for you because you sweat out toxins and (ideally) replace lost liquids with clean water.
Weight loss and fitness – Exercise, like cycling, burns calories, raises the metabolic rate, and builds muscle tone, so you burn more calories while at rest. This can combat the well-documented effects of obesity, including increased risk of disease and early death.