With the 2016 Summer Olympics around the corner, one of the sports that comes to mind is cycling. I, personally, have never done cycling, but may have to try it. Why? I found out in my research that cycling provides significant health benefits that go far beyond a basic cardiovascular boost. These are five surprising ways cycling can improve your mind and your body (excerpted from Vogue magazine):
1. It sharpens your focus: Though studies have long linked regular exercise with better concentration and memory, cycling, in particular, has recently captured researchers’ attention. A 2012 survey of some 20,000 schoolchildren in Denmark discovered that those who biked or walked to school focused better than their peers for roughly four hours, while a small 2013 study found that 30 minutes of moderate cycling lead to consistently higher scores on various cognitive tests (memory, reasoning, planning) in healthy adult males.
2. It boosts your immune system: Could cycling be better than a flu shot? Perhaps. A self-reported study of Dutch employees found that bike commuters took far fewer sick days than their coworkers during the same one-year period—and the more often or further they rode, the less sick they were on average. A similar analysis that pulled data from a Commuting and Health in Cambridge study concluded that bicycle commuters called in sick less often and reported better mental well-being, overall.
3. It will make you less tired: Compelling evidence suggests that casual cyclists are rarely exhausted, but rather, energized—as long as they don’t overdo it. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that 20 minutes of low-intensity exercise three times a week raised energy levels by 20 percent and curbed fatigue by 65 percent, which was more effective than moderate-intensity exercise. The activity tested? A leisurely spin.
4. It improves sleep: According to a Stanford University study of insomniac adults who added regular low-impact exercise to their routine—including biking—the additional leg-focused activity can deliver nearly one extra hour of rest and help you fall asleep twice as fast. It’s particularly effective when done about every other day for roughly 30 minutes in the late afternoon or early evening.
5. It brings peace of mind: There is something inherently meditative about pedaling on the open road—a gut feeling that researchers are hoping to back with science. According to Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey, “Cycling is also increasing a lot of the chemistry in your brain that make you feel peaceful and calm,” thanks to the soothing rhythm and focus required—a research area that merits continued examination.
If you want to try cycling, or if you are an intermediate or advanced rider, join us for Cycle Fest this year on September 11. Enjoy a Sunday morning ride in beautiful Warrenton, departing to and from Molon Lave Vineyards. Riders, friends, and family are invited to come and enjoy the day. This event benefits the Wounded Warrior Project, whose purpose is to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members; to help injured service members aid and assist each other; and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members. Learn more here.
To get in shape for Cycle Fest, or just to get in shape, be sure to try our cardio cycling classes at the J! See our group exercise class schedule for details on classes.