Healthy and General

What are the health benefits of cycling?

4 min read

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults perform at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity, such as cycling, every week.

Research indicates that cycling can provide numerous health benefits, including the following.

1. Cardiovascular health

Many researchers note that cycling can help improve heart health. For example, one 2017 study suggests that people who cycle to work experience notable health benefits, including improved cardiovascular functioning.

In addition to a 46% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, commuters who cycle to work also have a 52% lower risk of dying from the condition.

The results of the study also indicate that as well as improving heart health, cycling to work may reduce the risk of developing cancer.

2. Blood pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in some people. Some experts suggest that physical activity such as cycling could be the primary therapy to prevent these conditions.

Cycling may also help reduce blood pressure over a period of time. The review above notes that after 3 months, blood pressure may reduce by 4.3%, and that after 6 months, it may reduce by 11.8%.

A 2017 study adds that cycling is an effective method to lower blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes.

3. Weight management

A 2019 systematic review indicates that cycling is a useful exercise to help reduce body fat and body mass. If a person wishes to lose weight, having a good diet and getting adequate exercise are both vital.

Cycling can help a person manage their weight because it increases the metabolic rate, builds muscle, and burns body fat. It is also adaptive, meaning that a person can change the length and intensity of exercise to suit them.

Evidence suggests that based on a person’s body type, they can burn up to 300 calories per hour with moderate cycling. If a person increases the intensity, they can burn even more calories in less time.

4. Lung health

Cycling can also help improve cardiorespiratory health. An older study, from 2011, notes that cycling for about 170–250 minutes per week can greatly improve lung health.

One article emphasizes that exercise such as cycling is important to keep the lungs healthy for both people with and without a lung condition.

Other research also notes that physical activity can help the immune system protect a person from respiratory infections such as SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.

Regular cycling can also help promote lung function in those with a lung condition. For example, people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may incorporate cycling as part of their pulmonary rehabilitation program.

5. Mental health

In a sample of more than a million people in the U.S., exercise such as cycling was linked to improved mental health.

A 2019 study also highlights a link between the two, as well as improvements in some cognitive functions.

In addition to improving cognitive function, regular exercise may help reduce anxiety and depression.

6. Fitness levels

Many guidelines recommend performing regular aerobic exercise, such as cycling, walking, running, or swimming. Cycling can be particularly useful for fitness, as people can change the intensity to suit their needs.

One 2017 study suggests that people who cycle often or who incorporate cycling into their physical activities are typically fitter than people who do other physical activities.

The same study also notes that roughly 90% of people who cycle to work achieve physical activity guidelines.

7. Low impact

Cycling is a low impact form of exercise, making it a safe choice for older adults and people with weak or damaged joints.

Orthopedic surgeons may recommend cycling on level surfaces or indoors after surgeries such as total hip and knee arthroplasty. The low impact nature of the exercise can accommodate a variety of injuries and disabilities while still allowing a person to be active.

8. Environmentally friendly

Cycling is the most sustainable mode of urban transportation and causes virtually no environmental damage. Cycling also takes up little space and is economical for cyclists and public infrastructure. This makes it environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.

9. Balance and coordination

Cycling can stimulate motor regions in the central nervous system and activate the cerebral cortex, which may help improve motor learning and balance.

As a result, experts may recommend cycling as part of an effective rehabilitation program for people who experience balance problems and issues with walking.

Cycling can also help a person improve their core stability, which can help prevent injuries.

10. Easy to pick up

Cycling is also a relatively easy and affordable type of physical activity to start. It does not require any major skills, and it combines mobility with physical activity, making it accessible to large segments of the population.

People can also incorporate cycling into their life in many ways, such as at home on an indoor cycle, as a method of commuting, or as a pastime.