Whether you prefer to cycle in a group spin class at your local gym, or in the privacy of your own home on a bike trainer, or if you're a hard core year-round outdoor cyclist or trail rider, cycling is one of the best all-around activities for improving health.
According to news.discovery.com, not only is cycling "the most efficient mode of human locomotion," it also benefits your heart, muscles, waistline, life span, coordination, mental health, and immune system.
Cycling can improve your cardiovascular fitness, decrease your risk of heart disease, and prevent weight gain. The calories burned while cycling, especially if you cycle at a brisk pace or incorporate intervals or short burst of speed, work to whittle your waistline and rev up your metabolism, allowing you to continue to torch calories even after you've finished riding.
As a low-impact mode of exercise, cycling is gentle on joints and bones, and is great for people with hip or leg injuries that might otherwise be rendered inactive. When I was in my mid-twenties, I was in a car accident that shattered some of the bones in my left foot, requiring that I wear a cast for three months. I couldn't swim, I couldn't run or walk or do aerobics or kickboxing, but I could cycle. Several days a week I went to a gym and rode a stationary bike, a practice that preserved the integrity of my muscles and kept my fitness losses to a minimum.
Despite being low-impact, cycling is great for building and strengthening muscles, particularly the calves, thighs and glutes, and riding outdoors or on rollers improves balance and coordination. "Moving both feet around in circles while steering with both your hands and your body's own weight is good practice for your coordination skills," news.discovery.com notes.
Additionally, cycling has been linked to improved mental health—including reducing anxiety, depression and stress levels—and it can strengthen your immune system, protecting you against certain types of cancers, all of which increases your longevity. Even when adjusted for the risks associated with cycling, bicycling regularly has been shown to increase lifespan, or "life-years."
Better Health Channel reminds us that "to be fit and healthy you need to be physically active" and "riding your bicycle regularly is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle." And, in addition to providing multiple health benefits, cycling is simply a fun, enjoyable thing to do—something that cannot always be said of eating your veggies.
So, whether you are a novice cyclist or an experienced rider, young or old, physically fit or a couch potato, cycling is a healthy, low-impact exercise that is fun, cheap, good for the environment, and can be enjoyed by all.
Sherri Leimkuhler is the Times' fitness writer. Her column appears every other Sunday. Reach her at 410-857-7896 or email@example.com.