Ah, exercise. That old friend of ours who everybody asks about but is afraid to meet. Most people have a love/hate relationship when they think about keeping themselves in shape. But the truth is that staying healthy doesn’t have to involve long and painful routines at the Gym, or trying out wacky fitness fads that don’t work. Cycling is a way to stay in shape that is available for everybody and has amazing benefits for your body, mind, and spirit.
1. Cycling improves your cardiovascular system
Cycling is one of the most popular exercises for people who want to strengthen their heart and lungs. Studies have shown that regular cycling reduces the chances of suffering a heart disease by 50 percent. Regular aerobic training on your bicycle will also strengthen your lungs, allowing them to increase their oxygen intake, and with it your energy levels.
Having a strong hearth and lungs will not only prevent the development of dangerous cardiovascular conditions – like Coronary artery disease, Hypertension, Atherosclerosis and Metabolic Syndrome -, but it will also give you more energy to carry through your day. Are you tired of loosing your breath every time you use the stairs? Cycling as little as 20 minutes everyday will allow you to get more things done but only feel half the effort.
2. Cycling is great for mental health
For most people the word ‘exercise’ means sacrifice and this correlates to stress. Few things are worst than ending a hard day of work with a boring weight routine. Research has shown that regular exercise has positive effects on our brain, yet not all types of exercises were created equal.
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Cycling has been proven to increase the sense of self-esteem on its practitioners, and acts as an anti-depressant for the mind. If you have a bad day few things could help you de-stress more effectively than cycling. This is because cycling releases chemicals that keep Cortisol (one of the main Hormones related to stress) in check.
Cycling is also a good way to make new friends; not only because it’s practiced outdoors, in a relaxed atmosphere, but because people who practice regularly experience a reduced level of social anxiety and stress.
3. Cycling will boost your creativity
Bicycles may not have existed around Michelangelo’s life, but they would have certainly helped him to finish some of his works a lot quicker. Scientists believe that aerobic exercise helps boost creativity and problem solving skills and it can help writers, musicians, businessmen, engineers, or anybody working on a project, to get over a mental block and make a decision.
Cycling increases the oxygen flow to your brain, allowing your neurons to work more efficiently and giving you the inspiration you need to come with new solutions for a problem. A recent study found that just taking a 25 minutes ride will give you new ideas and encourage your creativity.
4. Cycling will improve your sleep
People who have a sedentary lifestyle often suffer from sleeping problems. Lack of exercise is one of the major causes for sleeping disorders like insomnia. But Cycling can help people with irregular sleeping patterns to re-adapt to a healthier lifestyle.
A study done by the Stanford University School of Medicine found that patients with insomnia who cycled 30 minutes every other day experienced an improvement in their sleeping patterns, reducing the amount of time it took them to sleep by half while increasing the amount of hours they slept. However, cycling is also related to short-term energy boosts, so you shouldn’t be cycling at night if you want to go to sleep early.
5. Cycling will make you look younger
Recent studies at Stanford University show that cycling regularly reduces the signs of ageing, and it also protects your skin against the dangerous effects of UV radiation. Cycling does this by increasing the circulation of blood and oxygen through or body, which in turn delivers much needed oxygen and nutrients to our skin cells. Healthy cells not only translates into beautiful, soft skin, but it also reduces the chances of developing many skin diseases.
A study, done by Rutgers University, shows that regular aerobic exercise, such as cycling, reduces the risk of developing skin cancer. Cycling also helps our skin cells to get rid of toxins more effectively and increases the production of collagen, which reduces the appearance of wrinkles on our body.
6. Cycling increases bowel movement
Cycling can also help to cure constipation and alleviate the feeling of bloatedness after eating. Physical activity helps to reduce the amount of time that the food stays on the large intestine, therefore limiting the amount of water that the intestine takes out of it, and guarantying that you’ll have a softer stool which will be easier to pass.
Also, aerobic activity increases your heart rate and accelerates your breathing, which in turns promotes the contraction of your abdominal and intestinal muscles.
7. Cycling helps you live longer
Regular aerobic exercise not only prevents the risk of developing dangerous conditions like cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes and even cancer; but it also helps our body to regenerate cells more efficiently, therefore slowing down the effects of ageing on our body. People who regularly practice aerobic sports like cycling or running live longer and healthier lives that those who don’t.
There’s many cases of amateur athletes who continue to exercise even well into their 70s and 80s. A study done at the King’s College London compared over two thousand identical twins and found out that those who rode at least 115 minutes a week were biologically younger than their twin brothers who lived a sedentary lifestyle.
8. Cycling will make you smarter
Cycling boosts the amount of oxygen that our blood cells can transfer. More oxygen in our cells means that our entire body can work faster and with greater efficiency. A study at the University of Illinois found out that people who lived a sedentary lifestyle and switched into cycling experienced up to a 15% improvement in their mental skills.
But cycling doesn’t only helps your brain think clearly; it also helps it to prevent degenerative conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, by helping to build and regenerate the neuron receptors that would otherwise deteriorate more drastically due to age. Cycling also prevents or slows down memory lose because it helps the brain to build new cells in the hippocampus (the area of our brains that stores our memory).
9. Cycling will make you happier
Ever heard of “Runner’s high”? This is a feeling of euphoria experienced by people doing a prolonged aerobic activity. A common misconception about it is that Runner’s high is caused by the release of endorphins on our body, but recent studies actually showed that a family of tiny molecules (called endocannabinoids) are the ones responsible for the feeling of happiness cyclists experience when they’re in “the zone.”
Cycling 30 minutes is all you need to get the benefits of endocannabinoids, which does a lot to explain why bike commuters are usually the happiest workers in the office. It also helps you reduce stress and at the same time increases the feelings of happiness and emotional well-being.
10. Cycling helps you lose weight
Now if all of the above didn’t convince you yet we saved the best for last. Polls show that a sizable majority of people who exercise are interested in losing a couple of pounds. Overweight is a big problem in the modern world. Our sedentary lifestyle means that for most of us exercise is a chore, instead of a part of our daily life.
But staying in shape is easier than it looks. Cycling allows us to stay fit without going through the hassle and procrastination involved in going to the gym. Cycling is easy to start for any beginner, and simple enough to adapt to your lifestyle. Just choose a perfect bike and go outside. It’s a lovely day to go for a ride.
Johnny Anderson is the founder of Cyclistblog.net, where you can find all the articles about cycling such as the guides to help you identify the best bike from the market, the essential features, tips for you to use the bike in the most effective way. Connect with me on Twitter.
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