How Bike Riding Can Boost Brainpower, Fitness, Happiness & More
Taking up cycling could be one of the best decisions you ever make.
Whether it’s to boost your fitness, health, bank balance, or an environmental choice.
Here 9 reasons to ride a bike, whether you want to improve your health, happiness, relationships or all three.
- Increase your brain power
Need your grey matter to sparkle? Then get pedaling. Researchers from the University of Illinois found that a 5 per cent improvement in cardio-respiratory ﬁtness from cycling led to an improvement of up to 15 per cent in mental tests.
That’s because cycling helps build new brain cells in the hippocampus – the region responsible for memory, which deteriorates from the age of 30.
“It boosts blood ﬂow and oxygen to the brain, which ﬁres and regenerates receptors, explaining how exercise helps ward off Alzheimer’s,” says the study’s author, Professor Arthur Kramer.
- Beat illness
Is cycling good for you? Yes! Forget apples, riding’s the way to keep the doctor at bay. “Moderate exercise makes immune cells more active, so they’re ready to ﬁght off infection,” says Cath Collins, chief dietician at St George’s Hospital in London.
In fact, according to research from the University of North Carolina, people who cycle for 30 minutes, ﬁve days a week take about half as many sick days as couch potatoes.
- Save the planet
Ten bicycles can be parked in the same space as one car. It takes around 5 per cent of the materials and energy used to make a car to build a bike, and a bike produces zero pollution.
Bikes are efﬁcient, too. You travel around three times as fast as walking for the same amount of energy and, taking into account the ‘fuel’ you put in your ‘engine’, you do the equivalent of 2,924 miles to the gallon.
- Lose weight by riding your bike
Loads of people who want to lose weight think that heading out for a jog is the best way to start slimming down. But while running does burn a ton of fat, it’s not kind to you if you’re a little larger than you’d like to be.
Think about it: two to three times your body weight goes crashing through your body when your foot strikes the ground. If you weigh 200 lbs. that’s a lot of force!
Instead, start out on a bike. Most of your weight is taken by the saddle, so your skeleton doesn’t take a battering. Running can wait…
- 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.
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!
- 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.
- Get (a legal) high
Once a thing of myth, the infamous ‘runner’s high’ has been proven beyond doubt by scientists. Yet, despite the name, this high is applicable to all endurance athletes.
“There’s a direct link between feelings of wellbeing and exercise.”
- Make friends and stay healthy
The social side of riding could be doing you as much good as the actual exercise and health benefits.
- Be 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.
More Reasons to Ride by Bike Radar