While riding bikes for the heck of it is fun – and counts as a hobby for most people – any lifestyle change requires motivation. Knowing the benefits of cycling, as well as how much fun you’ll have, pushes you to make it a priority. Here are the rewards you’ll reap when taking a daily bike ride.
- 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 or two and a half miles per day – that 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 eHarmony 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 saves you money.
Cycling can do more than leave you feeling refreshed, energized and dosed up on fresh air and sunshine, it can save you money. The average American spends around $2,600 on commuting every year, with gas being a major cost factor. Switch to a bike commute, and you’ll not only save money on gas and car wear and tear, but parking fees, too. Benefit number two? The average gym memberships costs $50 every month, but if you’re riding every day, you don’t need one. Cycling is a great cardio workout. This also leads to fewer sick days taken from work and an average of $544 per year in healthcare costs.
- Note down your motivation for cycling every day. Are you taking this challenge to better your health, save money, or reduce stress? Studies show you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.
- Go for your first bike ride. It doesn’t have to be a long one – start small and find your feet (or wheels).