Cycling benefits: 105 health benefits of riding a bike

Posted on 27 September, 2021 by Nicholas Rizzo

Cycling-benefits-how-biking-benefits-you

Based on our analysis of more than 100 studies and 73 hours of work, we have compiled 100+ statistics, facts, and findings from the research on the health benefits of cycling. This article covers the benefits of cycling for:

 

Benefits of cycling for heart health

As an aerobic activity, this form of exercise benefits people by helping improve people’s overall health. Although we know cardio benefits your heart health, cycling has been shown to be specifically powerful for this purpose, with studies showing biking will lower the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, lipid profiles, cholesterol, and even rehabilitation from cardiac events.

  • The incidence of myocardial infarction (MI) is reduced by 3.5% and 3.8% in men and women aged 55-64 who cycled to work.
  • The risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) is 11-18% lower in people who cycle commute to work.
  • People who regularly cycle are 15% less likely to have a heart attack than those who do not.
  • Men who biked to work are 1.7% less likely to suffer from heart attacks.
  • Cycling reduced cardiovascular disease incidence by 16%, and CVD-related mortality by 17%. 
  • Increasing the distance covered when cycling can improve heart and lung function by as much as 30%.
  • Cycling reduces high triglycerides levels by 18%, often associated with hypertension and heart diseases.
  • Aerobic exercises like cycling, running, and jogging saw a 4.6% increase in HDL (good cholesterol) and a 5% and 3.7% drop in bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides.
  • 6% of hypertension cases could be avoided if biking became a part of everyday adult activity.
  • Systolic blood pressure was reduced by 4.3% after 3 months of indoor cycling and 11.8% after 6 months.
  • Stroke patients who added 30 minutes of cycling, 5 times a week, showed significant improvement in their balance and walking.
  • Men who cycle with a moderate to fast intensity live 2.9 to 5.3 years longer than those who pedal slower or not at all. 
  • Women who cycle with a moderate to fast intensity live 2.2 to 3.9 years longer than women who bike at a slow pace or not at all.

 

Benefits of biking for the joint and bone health

Unlike running, cycling is easy on the knees. Bikers don’t repeatedly pound their feet on the hard ground when they bike, thus it makes for a good aerobic exercise option for people who suffer from knee or ankle pains when they run.

  • Middle-aged people who biked for 45 min/day, 3 days/week, at 60 to 70% heart rate for 12 weeks have increased the range of motion of their knees by 15 to 30% and a significant reduction in pain.
  • Biking for 30 to 60 minutes, 4 days a week, at 75–85% maximum heart rate, will induce enlargement of muscle fibers.
  • Cycling for 45 min/day, 3 days a week, at 60-70% of heart rate for 12 weeks produced significant reductions in joint pain, stiffness, physical limitations, and quality of life for adults with osteoarthritis.
  • People with osteoarthritis who took up cycling for 12 weeks reported a 74.07% to 86.03% decrease in joint pain.

 

Benefits of riding a bike for seniors and older adults

Much like how walking benefits older populations, cycling I a low-impact exercise, making it ideal for older adults. Aside from keeping their blood pumping, it has also been discovered to have a positive effect on the brain health of seniors.

  • Older adults who bike reported a decision time that is 15.5% faster than those who don’t cycle.
  • Older adults recorded strength gain that is 3 times higher than younger people who underwent cycle training.
  • The reaction time of seniors who bike is 22.8% faster than non-cyclists.
  • Those who regularly biked for 20 years had less sway and greater static balance when standing still compared to non-bikers.
  • Cellular aging in older adults who bike or engage in high physical activities has decreased by 9 years as shown by longer telomeres which are associated with a longer lifespan.
  • Cycling is known to increase the blood flow and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the brain and is associated with a reduced risk of dementia or Alzheimers. 
  • After just 8 weeks of taking up cycling, older adults improved their reaction time when identifying color words correctly.
  • Many studies have shown that cycling significantly increases muscle strength, balance, and overall reaction time in older adults and seniors. 

 

Benefits of cycling for diabetics

Though some diabetics believe that their condition prevents them from engaging in certain types of physical activities, studies have shown that cycling helps with blood sugar regulation. It can also prevent others from developing diabetes.

  • Those with type 1 diabetes are able to reduce their insulin dosages while eating the same amount of carbohydrates by incorporating regular cycling into their routines.
  • Regularly cycling for 30 minutes a day at a moderate intensity decreases a person’s chance to develop diabetes by 40%. 
  • Blood sugar levels of obese people were reduced by 50% within 24 hours by cycling in a moderate intensity for 30 mins to an hour a day.
  • After 6 months of active bike commuting, peripheral insulin sensitivity, or the ability to readily absorb glucose increased by 20% for leisurely riders and 26% in those who cycle vigorously.
  • Pregnancy-induced diabetes mellitus can be prevented by cycling at a moderate to maximum intensity 3 times a week. 
  • 20 minutes of regular biking reduces blood sugar levels by 25.0 mg/dl.

 

Benefits of cycling for weight loss, fighting obesity, and metabolism

Cycling helps people burn calories, making it a good physical activity for people wanting to lose weight. 

  • The calories burned biking for 1 hour a day for 6 months led obese women to lose 12% of body fat without altering their diet.
  • Children aged 9 to 15 who cycled to school were found to be 5% to 11% fitter than their counterparts who passively commute.
  • A 10-year study shows that biking could have prevented 24% of obesity cases.
  • After 8 weeks of biking with increasing intensity, participants lost an average of 2.6 kg or 5.7 lbs.
  • People who biked for 80 minutes with a VO(2)max of 70% produced an afterburn effect (EPOC) that resulted in an additional 130 calories being burned over the following 24 hours.
  • 45 minutes of vigorous cycling produced a net caloric burn of 519 calories, with an additional 190 calories being burnt over the following 14 hours, post-exercise.
  • Biking for 1 hour at a moderate intensity burns 654 calories for a person weighing 180 lbs.
  • To burn 2,000 calories, a person weighing 180 lbs needs to pedal at a speed of 16 to 19 mph for 1.96 hours.
  • The frequency of excessive weight gain in teens is only 17% for those who biked to school, which is lower compared to 23 to 32% who passively commute.
  • Biking for just 10 minutes each way to work produced significant decreases in weight and improved BMIs over the course of two years. While those that biked 30 minutes each way lost approximately 15 pounds and reduced their BMI by an average of 2.25 points.

 

Benefits of biking for mental and emotional health

Riding a bike may be a form of exercise, but it provides much more health benefits than just physical ones. Exercise as a whole is known to improve our overall mental and emotional health, ranging from areas like stress, depression, ADHD, and more. These are benefits that are specific to biking. 

  • Biking 3-5 times a week for about 45 minutes lowers the mental health burden by 21.6%.
  • Survey participants who bike to work are 20% less likely to suffer from depression.
  • 20% of cyclists are highly satisfied with their lives compared to those who do not cycle to work.
  • Biking 4 or more times a week produced significant reductions in adults with chronically high stress levels. 

 

Benefits of cycling for brain health 

Going out for a ride can also have direct health benefits to many areas of your life, due to how it is able to support, maintain, and improve the functioning of your brain. 

  • A study conducted among healthy adult males revealed that cycling improved test results for memory, reasoning, and planning.
  • People who biked before a test were able to complete it faster than those who didn’t bike.
  • People who bike at a moderate intensity are less likely to be startled by unpredictable threats compared to those who bike at a slower pace.
  • Cycling has been shown to significantly increase BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which is responsible for directly improving brain health, existing neuron function, and the creation of additional neurons. All of which are involved in improved memory, creative thinking, learning, and problem-solving. 
  • Seniors who increased physical activity with aerobic exercises like cycling for a year had significantly less amyloid or plaque build up in their hippocampus than those who only focused on stretching, improving memory retention and learning capabilities. 

 

Benefits of cycling for reducing cancer risk

Cycling has been discovered to decrease the chances of developing some types of cancers. Meanwhile, it also decreases the chance of people with cancer to die from it.

  • People with cancer who cycle are 40% less likely to die because of it.
  • Women who regularly ride their bike have 34% less chance to develop breast cancer.
  • The chances of getting colon cancer are reduced to almost 50% for people who cycle almost 2 hours a day several days a week compared to those who bike for less than 30 minutes a day.
  • Men and women who regularly biked to commute for 35 years or more reduced the risk of developing colon cancer by 66% and 60%, respectively.
  • Riding the bike for 2 hours or more a day reduces the chance of getting cancer by 59%.
  • The risk for colon cancer is reduced by 20% by cycling 1 hour a day.

 

Benefits of cycling for fitness - building / maintaining strength and muscle

Cycling engages various muscles of the body, especially the legs. It is also useful in toning the abdomen if you increase the intensity and resistance when you bike.

  • After a 12-week study, cyclists’ legs were found to be 17.2% stronger than non-cyclists.
  • Compared to non-bikers, cyclists have 10-16% more isometric muscle power.
  • The dynamic abdominal muscle strength of cyclists is 10% more than those who don’t bike.
  • Cyclists are 6% more flexible in comparison to people who don’t take up biking.
  • Aerobic power is higher by 4.6-5.9% in bikers than non-cyclists.
  • Kids and teens who cycled to and from school are 12.7% and 152% fitter than those who use motorized vehicles.
  • Compared to non-cyclists, people who bike can balance on one leg 40% longer.
  • Taking up cycling improved fitness by 21% in boys and 6% in girls.
  • 8-weeks of commuter cycling significantly improves a person's VO(2)max and ability to effectively utilize more oxygen while cycling.
  • Continually cycling until hyperpnea (heavy breathing) for extended periods of time (45min), increased respiratory muscle endurance capacity by 12%.
  • Indoor cycling for 2 to 3 days a week improves a person’s VO(2)max by 8 to 10.5%.
  • Cyclists who underwent surgery had a faster recovery time, 38 days, compared to non-surgical remedy, 76 days.

 

Benefits of biking to work instead of commuting in your car

Aside from the physical benefits of biking, people are also reaping the financial benefits of owning a bike and using it as their primary mode of transportation for work.

  • People who bike to work have 3 to 7 days shorter sick days than those who passively commute to work.
  • On a 5-point scale, cyclists on average rated their stress at 2.18, lower than those who drive to work (2.54).
  • If the majority of people bicycled commuted, fuel consumption will be reduced by 22 million per year.
  • Greenhouse gas emission decreases by 0.4% if more people rode their bikes regularly.
  • The average cost of owning a bike per year is $350 to $850, which is a small fortune compared to the $10,000 yearly cost of owning a car.

 

Drawbacks of cycling

How does cycling impact your sex life and sexual health?

Cyclists spend hours on their bikes, seated, which has led some to speculate that this could lead to sexual dissatisfaction. However, studies have shown otherwise.

  • 44% of cyclists report numbing of their penis, but only 6% reported experiencing numbness of their buttocks during long-distance rides.
  • 80.6% of bikers who experience genital numbness reported sexual satisfaction most of the time.
  • 1-59 minutes of genital numbness was reported by 62% of cyclists.
  • In female cyclists, 58.1% reported having genital numbness while 69.1% have genital pain.
  • 53.9% of female bikers are diagnosed with female sexual dysfunction (FSD).
  • Standing while cycling for 20% of the total ride reduces numbness and saddle sores due to prolonged biking.

Biking injuries 

Cycling can be a relaxing form of exercise, especially when you have a scenic view, but because of road hazards, it can also lead to some unfortunate incidents on the road.

  • From 2014 to 2018, 43% of cycling deaths in the U.S. happened in California, Texas, and Florida.
  • In 2018, the U.S. reported a total of 857 deaths related to bicycling accidents.
  • Even during the pandemic, the US logged 697 cyclist deaths in 2020.
  • Adults ages 65 and over increase their bike fall risk by 7.3% each year.
  • Turning causes 22.9% of accidents in senior cyclists.
  • 85% of bike fatalities could have been prevented by wearing a proper helmet.
  • 29% of seniors who fell off their bicycle suffered from upper thigh fractures.
  • 49% of cycling-related injuries are fractures, followed by soft tissue laceration or contusion at 13%.
  • The most common fractured bone among cyclists in Tour de France is the clavicle, accounting for 31.3% of fractures.

FAQ

Is cycling good for runners?

Yes, cycling can be good for runners when they want a good aerobic workout while giving their joints some rest. However, intense cycling can fatigue leg muscles and shorten stride length, so it isn’t recommended to cycle prior to a run or competitive race. 

Can biking help you sleep better?

Cycling is a great form of aerobic exercise, which has been shown to directly improve overall quality of sleep. In fact, 75% of people that exercise report having “good” or “very good” quality of sleep. In comparison, only 56% of non-exercises reported getting the same quality of sleep.

Can cycling strengthen your bones?

Unfortunately, no. long-term adult cyclists have lower bone mass density on their spine compared to non-cyclists. Cyclists, regardless of gender, are more likely to develop osteoporosis.

Can cycling lead to urinary problems?

Yes, male cyclists are at risk of urethral stricture while female bikers are more prone to developing urinary tract infections.

What happens if you cycle everyday?

If you cycle everyday, you can expect to see positive changes in your body. Some of these benefits include fat reduction, defined muscles in your lower extremities, better cardiovascular function, improved balance and cognitive performance, to name a few.

What body parts benefit from cycling?

The muscles, especially the lower part of your body, are the ones working hard when you go cycling. Specifically, the muscles involved include the gluteus maximus, the quadriceps (vastus medialis, rectus femoris, vastus lateralis), and the hamstrings (semimembranosus, biceps femoris) in the thigh, and the gastrocnemius (medialis, lateralis) and the soleus in the leg.

Sitting on the saddle and maintaining your balance while cycling engages the core muscles of the abdomen as well as the muscles on your back.

Is cycling better than running?

This depends on what you want to achieve. If you want to burn calories but have joint problems, then the low-impact nature of cycling will benefit you. You can also get a good aerobic exercise while biking which is beneficial for your cardiovascular system.

However, if you want to burn more calories at a shorter time or distance, then running would be your best bet since you exert more effort in running, thereby using more energy to move. 

A 155-lb person can burn 422 calories biking at 10mph for an hour. Meanwhile, they burn 1,126 calories going at the same speed running.

Does slow cycling burn fat?

Yes, you can still burn fat even if you’re riding at a slow or leisurely pace, the downside with slow cycling is you have to ride longer to achieve the desired fat burn.

For a 180-lb person who wants to burn 2,000 calories cycling, they need to bike for 6.12 hours on the road if your speed is less than 10 mph. You can burn the same amount of calories in half the time by increasing your speed to 12-13.9 mph.

How does cycling change your body shape?

People may associate cycling with bigger legs but cycling alone can’t bulk up your leg muscles. Cycling tones a person’s butt, thigh and leg muscles, and has been known to produce a more slender figure in cyclists.

There are cyclists with large leg muscles, but they do not acquire it by cycling alone. Most of these beefed up cyclists also spend hours training in the gym to get their leg muscles to bulk up.

Conclusion

Biking is a great way to improve your health without the added strain on your joints. Aside from losing weight, biking regularly can help keep your heart and lungs healthy, increase your lifespan, sharpen your brain, and even reduce the effects of cancer.

Use of Content

  • If you want to know more about the benefits of cycling or do an interview regarding the topic, reach out to Nick Rizzo at nick@runrepeat.com.
  • Feel free to use data from this analysis on web coverage of the topic or related content. We only request that you link back to this original source.

About RunRepeat

RunRepeat offers an unbiased look at the latest shoes for various activities. If you’re interested in cycling, check out our vast collection of cycling shoes. Those who bike to work will enjoy the casual vibes of the Five Ten cycling shoes. Meanwhile, if you’re training for a triathlon, Fizik, Shimano, and Sidi are some brands to consider. For serious road cyclists, Giro, Pearl Izumi, and Mavic are some decent selections.

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Author
Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo

Nick combines 10+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry and a background in the sciences in his role as the Fitness Research Director. During his competitive powerlifting years his PRs have him sitting in the top 2% of bench presses (395 lbs), top 3% of squats (485 lbs) and top 6% of deadlifts (515 lbs) for his weight and age. His work has been featured on Bodybuilding.com, LiveStrong, Healthline, WebMD, WashingtonPost, and many more. Along the way, collaborating with industry leaders like Michael Yessis, Mark Rippetoe, Carlo Buzzichelli, Dave Tate, Ray Williams, and Joel Seedman.