The Benefits of Biking
For many, the thought of riding a bicycle brings back nostalgic memories of childhood. As kids, bikes helped us discover a wider world than we could have imagined unlocking by foot. When we grew older, many of us traded in our pedal-powered two-wheelers for gas-guzzling automobiles. However, with rising gas prices, a growing focus on health and the environment, and thousands of miles of new bicycle lanes in cities across the United States, more and more adults are beginning to realize the many benefits of bike riding. Below, we take a look at some of the biggest advantages of biking.
A Convenient Transportation Option
Traveling by bike provides a number of conveniences not offered by cars. For one, a bicycle requires considerably less maintenance than a car. And for shorter trips through heavy traffic, you can often travel faster by bike than you can by automobile. When you reach your destination, you can avoid paying tolls and park your bicycle right near the front of the lot. Cycling can also double as your exercise for the day, so any time lost on your commute can be made up by not having to schedule additional time for workouts. Finally, bicycles let us access natural beauty that often can’t be reached by automobile, such as scenic parks and breathtaking waterfronts.
Good for Your Community
Bicycles are also good for your community. Not only does riding a bike keep one less car off your local roads, it also reduces the amount of noise pollution in your neighborhood. When riding your bike through your community, you can interact with others around you in a much more human manner. Wave to a neighbor, smile at the kids playing in their yards (some kids still do that), or take in the smells of a local back-yard barbeque—it’s all possible when traveling by bicycle.
Good for the Environment
America’s dependence on the automobile has created a serious environmental concern. The United States is a global leader in petroleum consumption, which causes increased emissions of harmful gases including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, nitrous oxide, volatile organic compounds, hydro fluorocarbons, per fluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. These emissions have been linked to the “greenhouse effect,” the depletion of the ozone layer, a variety of health problems, and an overall reduction in air quality. The negative environmental effects are even more significant in large cities with a considerable number of commuters driving cars to work each day.
While cars create a tremendous amount of pollution, and cause many of the environmental issues we face today, biking provides an extremely eco-friendly way to travel. Bicycles consume no gas and release no exhaust. Every mile you don’t travel by car saves a lot of pollutants from entering the atmosphere. Despite these facts, most Americans drive their cars to make short trips of a mile or less, causing major pollution damage. And in the United States, fewer people per capita ride bikes than in many parts of the world. If you’re looking to do your part to care for the planet, traveling by bicycle offers an excellent way to get started.
Good for Your Wallet
Cycling also comes with a number of financial benefits. It costs roughly 20 to 30 cents per mile to operate an automobile, and this number only includes expenses like gas, oil, and maintenance. When you factor in the costs of vehicle ownership—such as registration, taxes, depreciation, and insurance—the actual cost per mile is much higher. And if you add in paying for parking, tolls, and other miscellaneous expenses, the cost of driving a car rises even more.
As gas prices continue to increase, the financial strain placed on budget-conscious consumers has forced many to seek a cheaper alternative to the automobile. Considering that riding a bike involves no gas, no insurance, no registration, no taxes, and no parking tolls, bicycles provide an excellent means of low-cost transportation.
Countless Health Benefits
As if the benefits of riding a bike listed above weren’t enough, bicycling provides a tremendous number of health benefits. Below, you’ll find some of the major health benefits associated with cycling.
Burn Calories / Lose Weight – Need to lose a couple pounds? The general population of the United States is becoming increasingly obese. Riding your bicycle offers a great way to burn calories and lose weight. Every mile you bike burns approximately 25 calories. Even at a leisurely pace of roughly 10 miles per hour, you’ll burn 250 calories in an hour. And cycling has the added benefit of boosting your metabolism long after your ride is over.
Strengthen & Tone Muscles – Most people realize that bike riding works wonders for strengthening and toning your legs. When you pedal, your thighs, hips, and rear end do most of the work. However, biking can also provide a full body workout. As you climb hills, you typically stand to stabilize your body over the bike while working the handlebar, which engages your core, triceps, and upper body.
Gain Endurance & Stamina – Bicycling increases your endurance and stamina. In fact, because people typically enjoy cycling more than other forms of exercise, biking makes it easier to increase your ride distance each time out.
Improve Your Coordination – Moving both feet in circles while steering with your hands and balancing your body weight helps boost your overall body coordination.
Be Gentle on Your Joints – Bike riding places much less stress on the knees, ankles, and spine than other forms of exercise such as running, jogging, walking, weight lifting, or aerobic exercises at the gym. Because biking is gentle on the joints and preserves cartilage, it offers a great low-impact option for those who suffer from muscle strain, foot problems, knee troubles, hip injuries, and back pain.
Boost Your Energy – When you’re feeling tired and sluggish, bicycling can provide an excellent pick-me-up. A study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that bike riding improved energy levels by 20% and decreased fatigue by 65%. This is because bicycling triggers the release of dopamine in your brain, causing your energy levels to rise. The study also suggests that you need not be a road warrior to realize these benefits, finding that people who pedaled at a low to moderate pace three times per week fought fatigue the best.
Improve Your Cardiovascular Health – Bike riding also offers an important cardiovascular exercise, providing benefits similar to other forms of aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or dancing. Studies have shown that cycling to work will increase cardiovascular fitness by 3% to 7%.
Enjoy Better Heart Health – Not only does bike riding benefit your cardiovascular fitness, it also lowers your risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. According to the British Medical Association, cycling just 20 miles a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by 50%.
Strengthen Your Immune System – Cycling considerably strengthens your immune system and increases your body’s resistance against cancer-causing cells.
Improve Your Mental Health – Biking also helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Studies have shown that exercise increases endorphins in the brain and stimulates the production of norepinephrine, which helps improve your mood and reduces the build-up of adrenaline and cortisol, helping eliminate stress and anxiety. The regular, circular motion offered by bicycling relaxes the body without putting any sudden stress on your joints, helping regulate your emotions, breathing, and movement. Bike riding brings you to your destination feeling relaxed, energized and happier about the world around you.
Live Longer – Given all the above health benefits, it should come as no surprise that bicycling also increases your life expectancy. Even when adjusted for the risks of injury through cycling, regular bike riding has been linked to increased “life years.”
Ready to Ride?
When you ride a bicycle, you gain plenty of benefits—a convenient means of transportation, a stronger community, a better environment, a bigger bank account, and greater health. But perhaps the biggest benefit of all is that it’s just plain old fun. With all of these benefits waiting for you, there’s no better time to start riding than today.