My wife and I have recently got back into cycling, something we loved to do in the past when we lived in Devon. We were never as fit as when we used to cycle in and around Dartmoor on a regular basis and in all weathers. This reintroduction into the sport and, together with a recent ride I did from Cambridge to home, near Attleborough, got me thinking about the benefits this activity has on your body and potentially what it could do for you. Performing this year at the ‘Game and Country Fair’ will be the ‘Savage Skills Cycle Stunt Team’ who showed off their talents on television recently. The ability to do their amazing routines is down to the degree of fitness each member of the team has developed and although cycling to work on your back wheel only (as the front one would have been removed) is not recommended, your balance and coordination can also be positively affected! Below are ten facts about cycling you may not have known:
1. You’ll get there faster
Commute by bike in a major city and you’ll get to work quicker, research by ‘Citroen’ shows. In fact, if you drive for 60 minutes during Cardiff’s rush hour, you’ll spend over 30 minutes going absolutely nowhere and average just 7mph, compared to averaging around 12-15mph while cycling.
2. Improved sleep quality
Stanford University Medicine researchers asked sedentary insomnia sufferers to cycle for 20-30 minutes every other day. The results were that the time required for the insomniacs to fall asleep was reduced by half and their sleep time increased by almost an hour. Also, exercising outside exposes you to daylight which helps to sync your circadian rhythm (the body’s ability to tell you when to sleep). It also rids your body of cortisol, the stress hormone that can prevent deep, regenerative sleep.
3. Improves your bowels!
According to experts from Bristol University, the benefit of cycling extend deep into your core. Physical activity helps decrease the time it takes food to move through the large intestine, limiting the amount of water absorbed back into your body and leaving you with softer stools, which are easier to pass. In addition, aerobic exercise accelerates your breathing and heart rate, which helps to stimulate the contraction of intestinal muscles preventing you from feeling bloated, which in turn helps protect you against bowel cancer.
4. Boosts brain power
Researchers from Illinois University found that a 5% improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness from cycling led to an improvement of up to 15% in mental tests. That’s because cycling helps build new brain cells in the hippocampus – the region responsible for memory, which starts to deteriorate from the age of 30.
5. Not so many trips to the GP’s.
Moderate exercise makes your immune cells more active, so they’re ready to fight off infection. In fact, according to research from the University of North Carolina, people who cycle for 30 minutes, 5 days a week take about half as many sick days as ‘couch potatoes’.
6. You live longer!
King’s College London compared over 2,400 identical twins and found those who did the equivalent of just three 45-minute rides a week were nine years ‘biologically younger’ even after discounting other influences such as body mass index (BMI) and smoking.
7. Heal your heart
Studies from the US have shown that regular cycling can cut your risk of heart disease by 50%. And according to the British Heart Foundation, around 10,000 fatal heart attacks could be avoided each year if people kept themselves fitter. Cycling just 20 miles a week reduces your risk of heart disease to less than half that of those who take no exercise.
8. Boost your bellows!
Naturally, the lungs work considerably harder when you ride. An adult cyclist generally uses 10 times the oxygen they would need to sit in front of the TV for the same period.
9. Burn more fat
Sports physiologists have found that the body’s metabolic rate is not only raised during a cycle, 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.
10. Get (a legal!) high
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 opioids binding in the frontal and limbic regions of the brain (aka; the happy hormones such as endorphins, endomorphins, etc) – areas known to be involved in emotional processing and dealing with stress.
So, if you want to feel fitter, go faster, have better bowels, have superior thinking, live longer, reduce bouts of illness, get slimmer and feel really good about it, you now know what to do. You will get more out of it than you think.
Thinking of buying a new bike this Spring? Check out Beg Bicycles who will be exhibiting at the Game Fair this year on Avenue E.
Michael – Creative Chiropractic