The benefits of cycling go well beyond just being a mode of transportation or a great way to exercise. They include numerous physical, mental, emotional, social, and environmental benefits as well.
One of the best things about cycling is its versatility. It can be enjoyed indoors or outdoors, on a traditional or stationary bike, in a relaxed or intense manner, riding solo or in a group, or through a virtual or in-person class.
This means that regardless of your age, lifestyle, fitness, or ability level, you can take advantage of the 13 benefits of cycling discussed below.
Table of Contents
1. Low Impact
Although exercise is designed to place stress on the human body, one of the many benefits of cycling is that it causes less strain and injuries than most other forms of exercise. It does this by limiting impact stress on weight-bearing joints such as hips, knees, and feet. This makes cycling a great way to get an intense workout without beating up your joints or skeletal system.
It’s also a fantastic solution for individuals rehabbing an injury, starting a new exercise routine, or looking for an active recovery workout (performing low-intensity exercise instead of completely resting).
Additionally, cycling is one of the most effective workouts for reducing pain and stiffness for people who have arthritis or joint issues.
“The continuous motion that’s part of cycling is very helpful for arthritic joints,” says Joseph Garry, MD, an associate professor in the division of sports medicine at the University of Minnesota. “The more the joint moves through its full range of motion, the more synovial fluid is produced. This lubricates the joint so you move more easily the rest of the day.”
2. Improved Strength
Although cycling is considered aerobic exercise, it can also help strengthen your lower body and core and contribute to overall bone health.
Cycling uses all of the major muscle groups in the lower body, such as the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. This makes it a well-rounded lower-body workout.
Just like adding weight when lifting, the more resistance when pedaling, the greater the challenge to these muscle groups. Not only does cycling improve lower body strength, but it’s also an extremely effective way to shape and tone your legs.
When riding a non-stationary bike, your core muscles are naturally engaged to help balance the bike. This engagement increases the more you change directions and are required to shift your center of gravity to avoid obstacles and navigate rough, uneven terrain.
A strong core leads to better balance and stability. It positively impacts performance in other sports and the numerous daily activities that naturally depend on a strong core. A stronger core has also been shown to reduce and even prevent chronic back pain.
One of the best activities for bone health and the formation of new bone is weight-bearing or high-impact exercise. Additionally, adding a strength-training component increases muscle mass and can also help protect against bone loss.
Although low-impact, one study found that certain types of cycling, such as mountain biking, that involve exposure to ground impact and require upper-body muscle forces to maintain stability over uneven terrain benefit bone structure and strength.
3. Better Balance, Flexibility & Posture
In addition to improved strength, another one of the benefits of cycling is that it contributes to better balance, flexibility, and posture.
Falls are the leading cause of injury and injury-related deaths in Americans age 65 and over. As a person ages, balance tends to decline due to inactivity.
One of the best ways to prevent falls is through exercise that improves balance and leg strength. Because of its strengthening and stabilizing benefits, cycling is a fantastic way to improve your overall balance and coordination.
Flexibility also deteriorates with age. This can happen for many reasons, including increased stiffness in your joints and a loss of elasticity throughout the muscle tendons and surrounding tissue.
In addition to stretching, one of the best ways to improve flexibility is by being active. Cycling is a fantastic way to stay active and helps loosen your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and hips.
Although back and neck issues are typically what most people think of when it comes to poor posture, there are numerous others. Poor balance, headaches, breathing difficulties, incontinence, constipation, heartburn, and poor digestion can also result from bad posture.
While cycling doesn’t require standing up straight with your shoulders back, it does force you to keep your back straight and core engaged. This has the added benefit of strengthening your lower back and improving spine alignment.
One of the best ways to improve your posture is to ensure your bike is appropriately sized and set up. You can accomplish this with a professional bike fit at your local bike shop.
4. Increased Energy Levels
It’s not uncommon to be more tired when you first start exercising. However, regular physical activity can actually boost energy levels during exercise and throughout the rest of the day. When you exercise, two essential changes happen inside the human body: increased mitochondria production and improved oxygen circulation.
Mitochondria, also known as the “powerhouse” of cells, create fuel that increases your energy supply. In turn, the improved oxygen circulation allows your body to function better and use that energy more efficiently. Not only does exercise increase the production of mitochondria, but it increases their quality as well.
Whether riding aerobically at low intensity or performing higher-intensity sprint workouts, cycling is a fantastic way to stay physically active and tap into your body’s energy-producing mechanism.
5. Burns More Calories
Your body needs calories to function properly and keep you alive. However, if you consume more calories than your body needs, they get converted to and stored as fat. This is where exercise comes in.
The more physical activity increases, the more calories your body burns. According to a report published by Harvard Health Publishing, cycling is one of the most effective forms of exercise for burning calories, with cycling at higher intensities (over 20 mph) burning the most.
Cycling can also increase your BMR (basal metabolic rate), which is a measure of how many calories you’re burning while at rest.
Larger muscle tissue requires constant energy, even when it’s resting. Your glutes and quads are two of the largest muscle groups in the body. Both of which are used when cycling. As these muscles grow through frequent riding, they require more energy at rest, thus increasing your BMR.
6. Improved Sex Life
Did you know that an active sex life is good for your overall health and longevity?
Sex has been linked to less stress, lower blood pressure, reduced heart disease, a decreased risk of prostate cancer, and a strengthened immune system. One study showed that men with a high frequency of orgasms had a 50 percent reduction in mortality risk. Another study found that women who have sex once a week have an increased life expectancy.
So how does cycling improve your sex life?
Cycling improves cardiovascular health, which can positively impact sex drive. Conversely, poor cardiovascular health can lead to erectile dysfunction in men and sexual arousal difficulties in women.
As mentioned previously, cycling also enhances strength. “All these muscles [worked by cycling] are used during intercourse,” said Dr. Matthew Forsyth, a urologist and cyclist from Portland, Oregon. “The better developed these muscles, the longer and more athletic intercourse will be.”
7. Better Night’s Sleep
I’m sure it goes without saying, but the more energy you burn throughout the day, the more tired you’ll be at bedtime. Thus the better you’ll sleep at night.
A good night’s sleep can help you think more clearly, reduce stress, improve your mood, give you more energy, help with weight loss and maintenance, strengthen your immune system, and much more.
A recent study found that moderate-intensity exercise ending two hours before bedtime helped improve sleep quality. According to Melodee Mograss, Ph.D., a cognitive neuropsychologist at Concordia University in Montreal, although the study examined different types of aerobic exercise, cycling seemed to benefit participants the most.
“We’re not sure why cycling is so dominant for this. But we do know that exercise like cycling raises the core body temperature quickly as you’re doing it, causing the body to balance the surge in heat with cool-down mechanisms,” she says. “That tends to create more efficient temperature regulation, which carries into bedtime, and may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep better as a result.”
8. Reduced Risk of Illness & Disease
Aerobic exercise, such as cycling, is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of illness and disease. It can lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels. It strengthens heart muscles, enhances circulation, and lowers your resting heart rate.
Research also shows that people who cycle to work have less exposure to pollution than car or bus commuters—resulting in better lung function.
A 2016 study of Danish adults found that commuter and recreational cycling was consistently associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Another study found that biking, compared to other forms of active commuting, was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature death.
High-intensity exercise has even been demonstrated to significantly reduce the risk of highly metastatic cancers.
Additionally, moderate to vigorous exercise for 60 minutes or less can heighten your immune system response. This makes it easier to fight off attacks from the common cold or seasonal flu.
9. Healthier Brain
Regular exercise is as beneficial for your brain as it is for your body. Exercise has been proven to enhance cognitive processes such as memory, learning, language use, problem-solving, decision-making, reasoning, and intelligence. The benefits of which can be found immediately after physical activity as well as continue over the long term.
Exercise can also reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Studies show that people who are physically active have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as well as other types of dementia. Regular physical activity can even help slow the progress of dementia in those with mild cognitive impairment.
A big reason for all the above is blood flow. When you exercise, blood flow to the brain increases, which means more energy, nutrients, and oxygen. All of which improve your brain’s performance and enhance your mental capacity.
10. Improved Mental Health
People who exercise tend to be happier and less stressed than those who don’t exercise. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins help relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve mood. They’re also responsible for the euphoric feeling commonly referred to as the “runner’s high.”
Studies show that exercise can improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood. It can also alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.
A survey by Cycleplan aimed to understand the health benefits people experienced after taking up cycling discovered that three-quarters of respondents noticed an improvement in their mental health. A third of the 971 respondents said cycling reduced their stress levels and made them feel more relaxed, with 8% even saying it helped with their depression or anxiety.
Another one of the mental health benefits of cycling is that it can also build mental toughness. Whether tackling a long grueling ride, performing high-intensity intervals, or grinding over technical terrain, cycling is a fantastic way to push yourself outside your physical and mental comfort zones.
11. Great Family Activity
With more demanding your attention nowadays, finding time to spend as a family can feel daunting. Whether it’s because of work, school, kids’ sports, extracurricular activities, juggling social calendars, or the many trips to the grocery store, quality family time often gets pushed to the back burner.
To top it off, even when you find time, it can be challenging to find something the whole family enjoys doing together. Be it starting a family exercise program, taking a leisurely ride around the neighborhood, or exploring on vacation, cycling is a fantastic way to connect and enjoy as a family.
The best part is it’s an activity that’s great for all ages. You can strap little ones into a child’s bike seat or tow-behind trailer while grandma and grandpa cruise along on an electric bike. Regardless of the family, there’s a type of bike and a style of riding for everyone.
12. Expands Your Social Circle
Although riding alone can provide much-needed space and relaxation at times, riding with others can be a lot of fun as well. The social aspect has long been considered one of the biggest benefits of cycling.
With the rapid growth of local group rides and cycling clubs, it’s easier now than ever to meet people through the sport of cycling. Joining a cycling club or group is an excellent way to expand your social circle. If you’re new to riding, it’s also a fantastic way to pick up training tips and maintenance advice from more experienced riders.
Riding in a group is also safer than riding alone. Groups of riders are much more visible, and cars are more likely to give additional space when passing.
Additionally, being a part of a group has the added benefit of providing accountability and motivation. Everyone has those days when you don’t want to hop in the saddle. Being a part of a group of driven and like-minded individuals can make it easier to show up and get after it.
13. Good For the Environment
As a form of transportation, cycling can also have a significant impact on the environment. According to the University of Montana, motor vehicles produce more than 30% of US carbon dioxide emissions, more than 80% of carbon monoxide, and about half of the nation’s nitrogen oxide emissions each year. On top of that, 60% of these pollutants are produced during the first few minutes of driving the vehicle.
A recent study by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics found that 52% of all trips were less than three miles, with 28% being less than one mile. This makes a bicycle an excellent replacement for a car when taking shorter trips.
Electric bikes, which provide pedal assistance and can reach speeds up to 28 mph, are making cycling as a form of transportation even more accessible. Studies even show that electric bikes are more environmentally friendly than their electric car counterparts.
Regardless of why you’re thinking about jumping on a bike, there’s no disputing the numerous benefits of cycling and the value it can bring to your life. If you’d like some help getting started, check out our guides on the different types of bikes and cycling for beginners.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is cycling better than running?
Both cycling and running offer a range of physical, mental, and social benefits. However, there are a couple of key differences. Cycling is low-impact, which means it puts less stress on your joints compared to running. On the other hand, because running is a weight-bearing exercise, it can help build bone density and contribute to better overall bone health. When considering all of the benefits of cycling and running, which is better ultimately comes down to personal preference. What’s most important is choosing one you enjoy and can commit to consistently.
Can cycling save you money?
Not only is cycling a great way to improve your overall health and well-being, but it can benefit your pocketbook as well. As a form of transportation, cycling can help you save money on gas, parking, and vehicle maintenance. It can be a less expensive form of exercise, helping you avoid having to pay for gym memberships or costly gear and equipment. It’s also a more affordable form of entertainment than eating out or going to the movies. Additionally, because of the many health benefits of cycling, it can significantly reduce healthcare costs and loss of income due to illness or injury.
Does cycling give you abs?
Although there are elements of cycling that work your abdominals and strengthen your core, it’s not going to give you rock-hard abs. Having visible abs requires that your body fat percentage is low enough to allow your abdominal muscles to be seen. The good news is, being one of the most effective ways to burn calories and reduce body fat are among the many benefits of cycling. However, it’s important to combine it with a healthy diet and other forms of exercise that specifically target your abs.
Does cycling improve performance in other sports?
Cycling is an extremely effective cross-training activity that offers numerous benefits to athletes that participate in a variety of different sports. The cardiovascular endurance developed through cycling translates well into activities requiring sustained effort, such as running or swimming. Cycling also strengthens the leg muscles, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings, which are essential for explosive movements in sports like basketball, soccer, or tennis. Additionally, cycling helps improve overall stamina, lung capacity, and mental resilience, which can positively impact performance across all sports.
Bicycle Review Guru does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Check with your doctor before you start cycling or a cycling program to ensure it’s safe for you.