Why Road Riding is the best health investment : 8 Reasons to start Cycling
Cycling is one of the most efficient activities when it comes to achieving health targets. In fact, if you're wanting to open new chapters in your life we cant think of a more successful activity. Why would you need that? If you’ve been feeling run down, unfulfilled and not exactly in the peak of your health then cycling is likely the answer for turning your circumstances around.
Lets look at 8 reasons cycling could change your life
1.Why Cycle? Health
Regular physical activity and a healthy diet are both incredibly important if you’re wanting to maintain a healthy weight. If you’re looking to reduce or manage chronic illnesses then cycling is likely the perfect source of change. We could list all the physical health benefits, but the truth is you likely know all the horrid risks associated with obesity and unhealthy lifestyle. Good news is that regular cycling is one of the quickest ways to loose weight and establish excellent lifestyle changes. With plenty of support available, new friends and ability to go for a bike ride at any time, improving your health by bicycle is not as difficult as many people believe. You don';t need to look like ex-pro Mario Cipollini (below), but in a month or two of riding a bike, even around the park, your waist line will definitely benefit even after years of neglect.
You don't need to plan for the Cipollini physique, but regular cycling will have you feeling fitter from the inside out in just a matter of weeks.
Why Cycle? A comfortable meeting point
We live in a world where most social events are centred around food. It doesn't help our wellbeing if we regularly use food or alcohol as a social lubricant. And if its not with family then our time is mostly spent with colleagues at work. In fact, it can be difficult to find the time or opportunity to express and extend ourselves through our own personal interests. At the same time social wellbeing is up there when it comes to our happiness and feelings of life fulfilment. How do we make social connections beyond work topics or family obligations?
Cycling is rarely a solo sport and more often allows you to engage with a great variety of people on a regular basis. Because social riding puts you in touch with people this in turn helps to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Integrating exercise, like cycling, into our social life has an incredibly positive impact on and off the bike. If you’re exercising with a friend, or in a bunch, it passes the time quicker, provides fresh perspective when listening to different thoughts and ideas. In fact gaining new insights and experiencing new things is as much a part of cycling as pedalling. Not only do cycling friends give motivation and support, they hold you accountable in the wee hours of a cold winter morning when you start thinking you should stay in bed.
When it comes to initiating friendships, cycling provides a comfortable environment to communicate.
3. Why Cycle? Travel
There is nothing like a weekend trip away from your home City. Exploring the outdoors and getting in touch with your thoughts and plans is part of the Australian psych. But a new found passion for cycling and exercise brings the opportunity to travel further than a road trip to our next State. There are plenty of reasons to pack an overseas bag with your bike, to see new places, eat new foods, and enjoy the fresh views of an alternative culture. Sounds good? Then cycling could be your best excuse to visit an airport soon.
Whether it's with friends or through an organised tour, cycling has so many options when it comes to travelling the world. It's probably the best way to really explore a country for all its sights and experiences. Not only do you get to disconnect from the habits of your daily routine you can recharge with an external perspective of your life. Exposure to new things also brings back that feeling of wonder and adventure. This in turn will easily and naturally boost your creativity and you’ll be amazed how a change of view from the saddle can improve your motivation and productivity once you return home.
We also travel each year to Italy and spend weeks on the bikes. To get an understanding of what you can do overseas by bike, head to David (Chainsmith co-founder) reviewing a few rides he completed in Northern Italy earlier this year.
4. Why Cycle? Motivation
No matter if you travel the same route, a bike ride is always different. Even when the weather differences between rides is imperceptible, you’ll be sure to notice changes in your cycling strengths and comfortabilities. Every ride gives an opportunity to set goals and influence positive training. Alongside goals you’ll establish a healthy routine fuelled by the advice and positive talk amongst your cycling peers. Speaking of which, they’ll be holding you accountable so you wont need to feel alone and unsupported while learning the ropes and building good habits.
With practice you’ll see improvements in your riding skills and endurance which, in turn, will prevent you from slamming your hand on that alarm clock. Instead, you'll be reaching for your bibs and pedalling out the door at the crack of dawn.
Aside from making small gains on local rides, planning an event with a friend or bunch will keep you charged. The shared training experience will help you focus. Whats more completing a goal surrounded by a supportive network helps inspire you to achieve even more, ride further and harder.
5. Why Cycle? Mental Conditioning
Its proven! Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin. These chemicals improve your mood. Build enough and they'll fuel you to get you out in the world.
If you exercise regularly, it can help reduce your stress. Road riding is often about problem solving as you negotiate your way through traffic lights and roundabouts, navigate the streets and remain alert to obstructions ahead and aside of you. This in itself will change your regular thinking patterns, like dwelling on work or family matters. It's incredible how, as early as 7am in the morning, your ride will leave you mentally prepared and focused for the day ahead.
By being outside and feeling the effects of exercise on your body the symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety can be helped. It's not just the surroundings that have an effect on the brain. Regular exercise such as cycling also pumps more blood to the brain allowing clarity and focus. Have you heard of the hippocampus? This is part of the brain responsible for memory and with exercise you can increase the size. Good memory parred with clarity and focus means you can be in the game when it comes to important decision making and communication.
Meanwhile there is more good news for cyclists in terms of maintaining good brain health. As an excellent form of exercise, cycling can also increase the connections between the nerve cells in the brain not only further improving memory but helping to protect your brain against injury and disease. We enjoy learning about the effects exercise has on the brain when watching this TedTalk by Wendy Suzuki below.
6. Why Cycle? Fulfilment and Confidence
Need more reasons to take up cycling? How about having a positive attitude, smiling more, being open to learning and finding communication with others easier? Improved engagement with people and with work, reduced stress, decision making improvements, and ability to celebrate wins is just a part of what we experience as riders.
"Feeling good during the time we have on this earth is ultimately the best package cycling can provide us."
Confidence comes from both external and internal perceptions of yourself. But don't tale our word for it. Significant associations have been found between self-rated meaningfulness of life and regular and intensive physical exercise such as cycling by various studies. One such find in (Ruuskanen, 1995)1 suggests involvement in physical exercise amongst those of an older age promotes positive perceptions of psychological well-being. Not only do we look better when we cycle regularly, we also improve our feelings of accomplishment. Cycling gives us an avenue to achieve goals and make a positive impression on others through personal achievements.
With consistent accomplishments and overcoming challenges it's clear why riders always look for harder, longer rides. Pushing oneself is a way to realise our strengths and weaknesses and discover how much further we can physically and mentally go. Even lead-up training to a large event can provide us a source of pride and confidence when achieving our goals.
7. Why Cycle? Improved Intelligence
What physical response does exercise have on the brain? Increase blood and therefore oxygen flow has plenty of benefits when it comes to brain health. Blood flow from exercise is thought to increase focus and energy, act as a mood enhancer, improve memory and increase productivity. But it's also thought that activities like cycling promote the growth of neurons and even encourage the release of certain neurotransmitters and growth hormones crucial to the brain’s overall health. This may be why exercise is perceived to contribute to better concentration and memory.
Does it make you smarter? There have been studies on the impact of exercising in the environment (cycling) on executive function and mental health which agree that cycling does improve brain health. One such study2. (PLoS One. 2019) assesses not just the physical component of the activity but a number of different aspects of cycling that can improve cognition and mental health, e.g., engagement with the outdoor environment, independence and mobility.
What we can understand from research is that cycling can be used as a strategy to combat symptoms of mental health such as depression, anxiety, and stress while building excellent habits including goal setting and planning. There is plenty to discover when it comes to learning how intelligence may be increased through physical activity. While we can sit here reading about it, it seems we are all better off learning and improving from the saddle.
8. Why Cycle? Longevity
There are swathes of good evidence claiming exercise increases your life expectancy by warding off disease and maintaining good health. However, according to Associate Professor Melody Ding from the University of Sydney, bad diet will counteract good exercise habits. “Some people may think they could offset the impacts of a poor diet with high levels of exercise ... but the data shows that unfortunately this is not the case.”3.
So when we talk of longevity and exercise it seems we need to combine cycling with good diet to maximise those added bonus years on your life.
The best news is that once you begin your cycling routine, you understand the negative performance associated with poor diet. The likelihood you’ll grab the cakes instead of the vegetable wrap at the next business meeting is reduced when you think about keeping up with your mates on tomorrow's ride. Who wants to end at the back of the pack on every climb?
Longevity however isn’t just the goal. Feeling good during the time we have on this earth is ultimately the best package cycling can provide us.
As Ive always said, there is no bad reason to ride a bike, only good. If these 8 reasons don’t convince you perhaps you’re simply not ready to take a plunge into the world of cycling yet. If however, you realise these effects are exactly what you need, but could do with some support, follow our next article "How to Start Cycling: Top 10 Tips" and we’ll show you how your bike shop can crack open a new world of healthy benefits and opportunities.