Some of you may be throwing gym membership money down the drain. Being indoors, running on a treadmill or trying to figure out how to use workout equipment, isn’t for everyone. That doesn’t mean you should give up on exercising completely. There are many other ways to get fit. In Australia, where I am currently living, the weather is cooling down. This actually makes it more conducive to exercising outdoors. Those of you in the Northern Hemisphere should be seeing the first signs of spring, perhaps this has inspired you exercise outside.
Cycling is a great way to get in shape. Here are eight benefits:
1. You can start indoors
Perhaps you are not quite ready for the tour de France, but you can get fit in front of the TV and leave yourself with no excuses. According to Dr Lennert Veerman at the University of Queensland, being inactive can be just as bad for your life expectancy as smoking. You can purchase an exercise bike or put your road bike on a bicycle trainer and cycle while you watch your favorite programs. This will reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes as well as improve your fitness.
2. You can cycle on the way to work
Cycling on your way to work is convenient and cost-effective. These days, many office buildings have showers for employees to use. Pedaling at 9 miles an hour burns about 287 calories per hour. Exercise also releases endorphins which elevates mood and promotes energy. This is a great way to start the day and prepare for the challenges ahead. Start planning what to do with the money you will save on transport and gym membership.
3. Mountain biking is better for fitness than road biking
You can burn more than 500 calories with an hour of mountain biking. Studies show that off-road bikers have higher bone density than road cyclists. Mountain bikes are not as fast as road bikes because the wheels are heavier, so they require you to work harder. Choose the most appropriate bike for the type of riding you wish to do. Check out your local national park, there should be a variety of biking tracks to use for some good off-road action.
4. Cycling helps you sleep
A study at Stanford University School of Medicine found that insomniacs who began cycling 20-30 minutes every other day, fell asleep sooner and slept for longer. Cycling outside during the day helps to get circadian rhythms back in sync. This reduces the stress hormone cortisol which disrupts sleep. Good sleep is essential for weight loss and overall health. Researchers at Brigham Young University found that high quality sleep was associated with lower body fat while poor sleep correlated with higher body fat.
5. Stand up on the pedals for a greater workout
Standing on your pedals engages the whole body in order to keep balance and generate force. This raises the heart rate and burns more calories. It also builds strength in the upper body. Switch between standing and sitting at different intervals. Try ten minute hill climbs, alternating between sitting and standing.
6. Exercising outside promotes vitamin D production in the body
Our bodies can produce vitamin D with direct exposure to sunlight. The main function of vitamin D is to regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in our bones and aid cell to cell communication in the body. Vitamin D helps to support the immune system, maintain healthy bones and even reduce the risk of cancer. According to a study conducted by the Medical College of Georgia, vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining a healthy body weight. Vitamin D deficiency is common in people who wear sun protection frequently and in people of African descent, because pigmentation reduces vitamin D production. Vitamin D can also be received through food and with supplements, however going outside for a bike ride is a fun way of getting a much-needed dose of it.
7. You are less likely to get bored with cycling
You can always try a different route for a change of scenery and, treat cycling as an opportunity to explore. Try combining your cycling with some photography. I occasionally stop along the way to take photos if I find something interesting. From animals, beautiful sunsets, exquisite scenery, to classic cars or planes; you never know what you might find.
8. Cycling is a low impact exercise
Cycling is a good form of exercise for people with knee problems, as it does not directly put pressure on the knee joints. The repetitive motion of cycling works the quadriceps and hamstrings, which are the muscles that support the knee joints. It is an exercise that strengthens the legs and promotes cardiovascular fitness. For the best results, cycle at least three or four times each week for 30 minutes.
So get on your bike, get in shape and start exploring!
Are you a cyclists? What benefits have you discovered from cycling? Share your experiences below.