6 health benefits of cycling

We’ve been talking about New Year’s resolutions this month, and how to stick to them. Specifically health and wellness goals – a top priority for Americans in January.

One of the easiest ways to motivate yourself to get moving is to do something you genuinely enjoy.

You likely know a few exercise-loving types. They bound out of bed every morning for a 10-mile run; hit a Crossfit class in their lunch break, and actually look like they’re having a blast when they post pictures of their latest mud-clad Savage Race on Facebook.

It’s kind of intimidating. But getting fit isn’t an all or nothing affair. You don’t need a gym membership, a monthly juice cleanse, or industrial quantities of protein powder. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends just 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily for the average adult.

That’s a bike ride to the store. To dinner with friends. To work. Or a leisurely ride with family and friends in the evening.

The best thing about those 20 minutes of daily cycling? They are genuinely fun. And the health benefits are plentiful.

It’s good for your heart

A recent study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise spent years looking at the activity of its participants. Those who cycled on a daily basis were 31% less likely to develop high blood pressure. According to the British Heart Foundation, cycling 20 miles per week – that daily ride to the store, dinner or work – reduces your risk of heart disease by half.

It helps you lose weight

Dropping pounds to reach a healthy goal weight is largely dependent on creating a calorie deficit. Even cycling at a leisurely pace, the average person weighing 154 pounds can burn around 250 calories an hour. That’s 1,750 calories in a week, or a little over half a pound of fat.

It’s easy on your joints (and can help you ease back into exercise after injury)

When you sit on a bike, you put your weight on bones in the pelvis called the ischial tuberosities (getting technical over here), unlike walking or running, when you put your weight on your legs, knees and feet. Even elderly patients with knee pain and osteoarthritis have been shown to improve their condition with cycling. It’s gentle on the body, but still packs a punch. Bonus: It’s improves posture and coordination, too.

It decreases stress

Outside of the strangely meditative state that comes with the repetitive action of pedaling (try it – it’s a thing), cycling has been lauded by experts for its stress-relieving qualities in countless studies. It boosts blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which in turn regenerates receptors. Researchers from the University of Illinois found that an improvement of only 5% in cardiorespiratory fitness led to a further improvement of up to 15% in the ability to deal with stress. Having trouble sleeping? Stanford University School of Medicine researchers asked sedentary insomnia sufferers to cycle for 20-30 minutes every other day. The result? The time required for the insomniacs to fall asleep was reduced by half, and sleep time increased by almost an hour.

It makes you happier (and boosts your ego)

We’re all aware of the exercise-induced endorphin benefits (not to mention the bragging rights when you upload a post-workout selfie to Instagram), but did you know cycling can boost your ego, too? A study in the International Journal of Exercise Science recently discovered that self-esteem improves after just 10 sessions when you’ve been otherwise sedentary. A survey commissioned by The British Heart Foundation, meanwhile, found that cyclists were perceived as 13% more intelligent and cooler than other people, and 23% said a cyclist would be their preferred blind-date athlete of choice. Time to update the old Match profile.

It might even help you live longer

One study of former Tour de France riders found former pros lived 17% longer than the general population. We’re not promising a fountain of youth here, but the study’s findings are still pretty impressive.

It’s all as simple as riding a bike. Out and about downtown this weekend? Rent a Coast bike for an hour and see for yourself.