The top 5 benefits of cycling
Going for a ride is good for your heart and muscles, and it may improve how you walk, balance, and climb stairs.
They say you never forget how to ride a bike, so maybe it's time to climb aboard a two- or three-wheeler and enjoy the health benefits of cycling. "It's socially oriented, it's fun, and it gets you outside and exercising," says Dr. Clare Safran-Norton, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Check out the main physical benefits.
1. It's easy on the joints. When you sit on a bike, you put your weight on a pair of bones in the pelvis called the ischial tuberosities, unlike walking, when you put your weight on your legs. "That makes it good for anyone with joint pain or age-related stiffness," says Dr. Safran-Norton.
2. Pushing pedals provides an aerobic workout. That's great for your heart, brain, and blood vessels. Aerobic exercise also triggers the release of endorphins, the body's feel-good chemicals—which may make you feel young at heart.
3. Cycling builds muscle. In the power phase of pedaling (the downstroke), you use the gluteus muscles in the buttocks, the quadriceps in the thighs, and the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calves. In the recovery phase (backstroke, up-stroke, and overstroke), you use the hamstrings in the back of the thighs and the flexor muscles in the front of the hips.
Cycling works other muscles, too. You use abdominal muscles to balance and stay upright, and you use your arm and shoulder muscles to hold the handlebars and steer.
4. It helps with everyday activities. "The benefits carry over to balance, walking, standing, endurance, and stair climbing," says Dr. Safran-Norton.
5. Pedaling builds bone. "Resistance activities, such as pushing pedals, pull on the muscles, and then the muscles pull on the bone, which increases bone density," says Dr. Safran-Norton.