The Health Benefits of Cycling, How to Start, and How to Improve

No matter your skill level, you can get a great workout if you have a bike in your garage or apartment.

Here’s a guide for those who are just starting or have been cycling for some time and want to improve their performance.

What is cycling?

Cycling is just getting on a bike and riding it. Physical activity is any bike pedaling, whether just a few laps around the neighborhood or a 100-mile ride. What makes a bike workout an easy or intense one for you depends on your fitness.

According to Milwaukee-based Paul Warloski, a USA Cycling-certified cycling coach and ACE-certified personal trainer, this activity builds strength, especially in lower-body muscle groups like the quadriceps.

He says that aerobic exercise improves your cardiovascular system because it trains your body to pump blood and use oxygen more efficiently.

He says there is a slight difference between outdoor and stationary bikes regarding performance or benefits. Staying indoors is a convenient way for some people to exercise. They don’t need to worry about finding different routes or having water, snacks, and repair kits handy.

Many outdoor cyclists would not trade these conveniences in for the outdoors, even if it meant their bikes were at risk. Warloski says, “There’s no better way to connect with nature than by riding outdoors.” Add a great group and a place to rest and relax, and you have a fantastic day.

While cycling can be your only form of exercise, most avid cyclists only spend some of their fitness time on the bike, adds Bekah Rottenberg, Professional Mountain Bike Instructor Association-certified instructor and National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer in Hood River, Oregon.

Cycling is good for your health.

Cycling has several benefits for your physical and mental health (as do most forms of exercise). Here are a few that have a direct link to cycling.

  • Sleep quality Meta-review of fifteen studies published in December 2021’s Sleep Medicine Reviews examining different types of exercises and their effects on sleeping quality found that cycling was the best option.
  • A cardiovascular HealthMeta-Review published in August 2019 in Medicine found that indoor cycling could help improve aerobic capability, blood pressure, and lipid profile.
  • Brain Health & MoodStudy in the February 2019 Edition of PLoS One showed that older adults’ cognitive function and perceptions of well-being improved after eight weeks of cycling three days a week. The researchers found that the mental health benefits were the same whether the participants used traditional bikes or electric bikes with motors to assist with pedaling.

Cycling for weight loss?

  • Rottenberg says aerobic exercises like running or cycling can help you lose weight.
  • The research found that cycling regularly can help overweight people lose weight. In one study, women with an unhealthy lifestyle and a high level of obesity who followed a 12-week indoor cycle regimen lost weight even though they didn’t change their diet.
  • Rottenberg says that there are a few factors to consider when deciding whether cycling will help you lose weight. What you eat every day is a significant factor.
  • She says there are two reasons. Rottenberg says that cycling temporarily speeds up metabolism. Many people eat more than they burnt while cycling during the short-term spike (because they feel hungry and their body is seeking energy), resulting in a caloric deficit rather than a surplus.
  • She adds that our bodies are highly efficient and adapt quickly to stress. She says that if you ride your bike for extended periods, your body will adapt and burn fewer calories. She warns that some fitness trackers may overestimate how many calories you burn while cycling.

What is the Best Way to Start Cycling Workouts?

  • As with any new fitness program, check with your doctor first to see if there are any health concerns, such as joint or cardiovascular problems, which could interfere with your ability or safety to exercise.
  • Garret Seacat (CSCS ), a USA Cycling certified cycling coach from Manhattan, Kansas, recommends that you start with short rides (20 to 30 minutes) a few times per week.
  • He says that for a beginner riding a bike is an adjustment. You’re training your body to adapt to different pressure on your wrists, groin, and feet. It may take some time for you to feel comfortable.
  • He suggests that you focus on becoming comfortable on your bike for the first two weeks.
  • You can then experiment with different variables, such as increasing your speed or riding longer and more often.
  • Seacat says that you should also get comfortable with changing gears.
  • If you find yourself pedaling faster than usual to keep up with the rotation of your tires (or you start to bounce on the seat or feel out of control), you may want to shift into a higher gear. This is especially true if you have just climbed a steep hill and are now on flat ground or heading downhill. When completing a full circle (such as climbing a steep hill) is challenging, you should shift to a lower gear.
  • He says 70-90 repetitions per minute are a good range to aim for, regardless of your gear. Seacat says that an on-bike calculator, a small device clipped to the bike that gives you data on speed and various other factors, can help assess where you are within that range. You can learn a lot about effort and control by experimenting with the feel of your gears, especially when riding on different terrain.


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