Yeah, we have all heard the good reasons to do some physical exercise. Reasons like weight management, improving your cardiovascular fitness, being ‘healthy’, etcetera etcetera. What about the not so well known benefits of cycling? Well, there are a bunch of unconventional reasons that make cycling, in particular, a great way to exercise.
If you’re bike-curious, read on below for some unconventional reasons to ride bikes that often go overlooked.
It’s true that exercise is helpful for the brain. It increases blood flow that affects many areas of the body, and the brain is one of them. Aside from increased cognition and reducing the risk of degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, cycling is a great way to increase productivity and focus, manage mood issues and have great ideas.
Seem weird? Well for many people who aren’t neurotypical (ie: ADHD/ASD folk) exercise is a great way to increase focus and foster creativity. After all, who hasn’t had some of their best ideas when riding a bike?
When my life turns to white noise and I can’t pick a channel to stay on, I find going for a ride gives me mental clarity, reduces anxiety, and also gives me some weird and eccentric ‘moments of brilliance’.
Some people can lose weight by cycling, however, many people have realised that health at any size is a legitimate lifelong game plan. In this way, I don’t want to focus on weight loss because it often leads to a dark path of restrictive eating and unhealthy dieting. Instead, let’s focus on the important changes that happen inside your body, including:
An increase in muscle mass
Increased cellular mitochondria
Increased lung capacity, cardiac output and stroke volume (important for respiratory and cardiovascular fitness!)
Decreased insulin resistance and reduces the likelihood of chronic health conditions
Lower impact sports generally have fewer injuries than higher impact sports. Just remember to keep doing some weight-bearing exercise as well for bone health!
…and that’s a non-exhaustive list!
You may lose weight, you may gain weight. Your thighs may get larger, or they may not. These type of changes are largely due to genetics, so worry less about them and focus on the other important body changes that are happening every time you saddle up for a ride!
The Social Factors
Numerous studies have found robust data of causality between strong social connections and life expectancy. Inversely, lack of social connections are associated with increased risk of ‘physiological dysfunction’ (we can just call it poor health!) in adolescence and old age.
Many of us get tied up in life, family and work. Our social connections can become less of a priority, yet we know we are doing our own health a disservice by neglecting these relationships.
Enter: bike riding. Whether you ride socially on the weekends or you’re a competitive racer; the social factor is what draws many of us to the sport, and keeps going back for more.
Near my house we have a road cycling crew that are all 70+ years old who go for twice-weekly road rides then go and drink coffee. My daughter in primary school has her own mountain biking crew from her club, who do shuttles of local trails and then have burgers.
Whatever stage of life you are in, and whatever sort of riding you do, there is a crew for you. Reach out to your local club or advocacy group for more information.
Bicycle Queensland's Chair and Director, Rachel Nolan has ridden the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail each year end to end across four days since her son was four years old, he is now seven. Below is Rachel's guide on how to ride the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail!