27 great benefits of cycling | Why bike riding can boost your brainpower, fitness, bank balance and more (PART 2)

15. Enjoy healthy family time

Cycling is an activity the whole family can do together. The smallest tyke can clamber into a bike seat or tow-along buggy, and because it’s kind on your joints, there’s nothing to stop grandparents joining in too.

Moreover, your riding habit could be sowing the seeds for the next Bradley Wiggins or Marianne Vos. Studies have found that, unsurprisingly, kids are influenced by their parents’ exercise choices.

Put simply, if your kids see you riding regularly, they think it’s normal and will want to follow your example. Don’t be surprised, though, if they become embarrassed by your tendency to mismatch fluorescent Lycra when they become teenagers.

Get the whole family involved.  Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

16. Get better at any sport

Whether you want to keep in prime shape or just improve your weekly tennis game, a stint in the saddle is the way to begin.

A recent medical study from Norway carried the title Aerobic Endurance Training Improves Soccer Performance, which makes it pretty clear that the knock-on benefits to other sports and activities are immense.

17. Make creative breakthroughs

Writers, musicians, artists, top executives and all kinds of other professionals use exercise to solve mental blocks and make decisions – including Jeremy Paxman, Sir Alan Sugar and Spandau Ballet.

A study found that just 25 minutes of aerobic exercise boosts at least one measure of creative thinking. Credit goes to the flow of oxygen to your grey matter when it matters most, sparking your neurons and giving you breathing space away from the muddle and pressures of ‘real life’.

18. You’re helping others

Many cyclists turn their health, fitness and determination into fundraising efforts for the less fortunate. The London to Brighton bike ride has raised over £40 million for the British Heart Foundation since the two became involved in 1980, with countless other rides contributing to the coffers of worthy causes.

19. You can get fit without trying too hard

Regular, everyday cycling has huge benefits that can justify you binning your wallet-crippling gym membership.

According to the National Forum for Coronary Heart Disease Foundation in the US, regular cyclists enjoy a fitness level equal to that of a person who’s 10 years younger.

20. Boost your bellows

No prizes for guessing that the lungs work considerably harder than usual when you ride. Generally, an adult cycling uses 10 times the oxygen they’d need to sit in front of the TV for the same period.

Even better, regular cycling will help strengthen your cardiovascular system over time, enabling your heart and lungs to work more efficiently and getting more oxygen where it’s needed quicker. This means you can do more exercise for less effort. How good does that sound?

21. Burn more fat

Sports physiologists have found that the body’s metabolic rate – the efficiency with which it burns calories and fat – is not only raised during a ride, but for several hours afterwards.

“Even after cycling for 30 minutes, you could be burning a higher amount of total calories for a few hours after you stop,” says sports physiologist Mark Simpson of Loughborough University.

And as you get fitter, the benefits are more profound. One recent study showed that cyclists who incorporated fast intervals into their ride burned three-and-a-half times more body fat than those who cycled constantly but at a slower pace.

Addicted to cycling? We know we are!  Mick Kirkman

22. You’re developing a positive addiction

Replace a harmful dependency – such as cigarettes, alcohol or eating too much chocolate – with a positive one, says William Glasser, author of Positive Addiction.

The result? You’re a happier, healthier person getting the kind of fix that boosts the good things in life.

 

23. Get (a legal) high

Once a thing of myth, the infamous ‘runner’s high’ has been proven beyond doubt by German scientists. Yet, despite the name, this high is applicable to all endurance athletes.

University of Bonn neurologists visualised endorphins in the brains of 10 volunteers before and after a two-hour cardio session using a technique called positive emission tomography (PET).

Comparing the pre- and post-run scans, they found evidence of more opiate binding of the happy hormone in the frontal and limbic regions of the brain – areas known to be involved in emotional processing and dealing with stress.

“There’s a direct link between feelings of wellbeing and exercise, and for the first time this study proves the physiological mechanism behind that,” explains study co-ordinator Professor Henning Boecker.

24. Make friends and stay healthy

The social side of riding could be doing you as much good as the actual exercise and health benefits. University of California researchers found socialising releases the hormone oxytocin, which buffers the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Another nine-year study from Harvard Medical School found those with the most friends cut the risk of an early death by more than 60 per cent, reducing blood pressure and strengthening their immune system.

The results were so significant that the researchers concluded not having close friends or confidants is as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight. Add in the fitness element of cycling too and you’re onto a winner.

25. It’ll make you happy

Even if you’re miserable when you saddle up, cranking through the miles will lift your spirits.

“Any mild-to-moderate exercise releases natural feel-good endorphins that help counter stress and make you happy,” explains Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation.

That’s probably why four times more GPs prescribe exercise therapy as their most common treatment for depression compared to three years ago.

“Just three 30-minute sessions a week can be enough to give people the lift they need,” says McCulloch.

Cycling makes you happy – science says so!  Jonathon Nackstrand

26. Feeling tired? Go for a ride

Sounds counter-intuitive but if you feel too tired for a ride, the best thing you can do is go for ride.

Physical activity for even a few minutes is a surprisingly effective wake-up call. A review of 12 studies on the link between exercise and fatigue carried out between 1945 and 2005 found that exercise directly lowers fatigue levels.

27. Spend quality time with your partner

It doesn’t matter if your paces aren’t perfectly matched, just slow down and enjoy each other’s company. Many couples make one or two riding ‘dates’ every week.

And it makes sense: exercise helps release feel-good hormones, so after a ride you’ll have a warm feeling towards each other even if he leaves the toilet seat up and her hair is blocking the plughole again.