With the spring and summer seasons bringing back warmer temperatures, people will look to spend more time enjoying the great outdoors.
Cycling is one of the more popular activities in these months, but numbers suggest most people don’t ride a bicycle on a regular basis.
According to a 2015 study commissioned by the PeopleForBikes Foundation, 34% of Americans over the age of 2 rode a bicycle within the last year. Half of those riders only rode their bikes twice a month or less.
May is National Bike Month, a celebration established in 1956 and sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists to encourage more people to make bicycling a part of their life.
Biking has shown to have many benefits, both physical and mental.
The act of pedaling provides an aerobic and muscle-building workout for riders. Cycling has cardiovascular benefits, but it also helps people improve their balance by strengthening abdominal muscles, according to an article on Harvard Health’s website.
Dr. Clare Safran-Norton, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said cycling also increases bone density because pedaling is a resistance activity that causes leg muscles to pull on the bone.
Biking can also help people achieve minimum exercise recommendations. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ latest physical activity guidelines recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity.
When combined with a healthy diet, cycling helps burn fat by raising the rider’s metabolic rate. It’s also easy to modify distance and intensity of a cycling workout to meet specific fitness goals. Individuals using stationary bikes have shown similar health benefits.
Biking to stay fit can go a long way toward lowering the risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
Cycling has shown benefits for the mind as well as the body, including stress relief and possibly cognitive brain health.
A 2018 study published in the journal Neurology showed brain-boosting benefits for individuals over 65 years who had cognitive impairments that were not as severe as dementia. The study combined cycling with a low-sodium diet.
A common mental health benefit of exercise is alleviating physical and mental stress. It is important for people to reduce stress for overall health and to reduce risk of developing certain illnesses.
New riders looking to begin cycling should remember to start slowly, especially if they have not been exercising regularly.
It’s also important to buy a bike that is the right height and frame size for the rider.