The wheel has often been used as a symbol of reinvention. Whether it’s “The Wheel of Fortune” tarot card, the Buddhist imagery of reincarnation as a cyclical wheel of lives, or even the old cliche of the caveman inventing the wheel, the wheel appears all over the place as a sign of changing times and forward momentum. If you’re looking to make a change in your life toward achieving better health, wheels may be your answer: a little bicycling can go a long way toward improving your physical and mental health.
Regular cycling can be a great way to burn calories and lower your body fat levels. Bike riding is an effective cardio workout. Even if you bike at a leisurely, relaxed pace you're still burning a high number of calories. That being said, the more work you put in the better the results: the faster you cycle, the more calories you burn. Research has found that cycling at moderate speeds burns about 300 calories in 60 minutes.
Biking is a low impact activity. That means it goes easy on your back, knees, hips, and ankles. Low impact doesn’t mean that biking can’t be an intense workout that yields appreciable results; it just means that the risk of injuring yourself is relatively low.
In addition to burning fat, bicycling can build up muscle and improve the overall function of your lower body. Cycling strengthens several different muscle groups that include your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. An added benefit of developing muscle strength through biking is that people with a higher percentage of muscle mass burn more calories (even when they’re being sedentary).
Bicycling can also help lower your cholesterol levels and improve your circulation. Studies have found that one of the long-term benefits of cycling is that it can reduce risk of heart and lung disease.
Bicycling - like walking and many other sustained physical activities - releases endorphins in our bodies. Endorphins are “feel-good” hormones: they’re your body’s natural painkillers. Endorphins help put us in a restorative state, relaxing anxiety, reducing stress, and alleviating physical pain as they circulate through our system. Sometimes a large dose of endorphins can be released at the end of an intense workout: this is the famous “Runner’s high,” which can induce a brief state of euphoria.
A Good Fit
Oftentimes we have to go out of our way to exercise. One of the benefits of cycling is that you don’t need to go to a gym to do it: you can get just as good a workout with an at-home stationary bike or by biking around the neighborhood yourself. Got a relatively short commute to work? Opt to bike there and back instead when the weather is nice. You can use a bicycle to run errands, see friends, and get around town. It’s one of the easiest forms of exercise to smoothly integrate into the fabric of your daily life.
Article by Austin Brietta
Want more wellness tips? Check out these stories: