There is a high chance you already heard about some benefits of cycling. I decided to take a slightly different approach compared to other articles out there. In this article, you will learn what are the scientifically proven and day to day benefits of cycling.
During my research, I read more than 20 studies and found evidence for every single cycling benefit.
Scientifically Proven Cycling Benefits
Weight loss is one of the most frequently mentioned benefits of cycling. Therefore, I will also start with it. If you want to lose weight, you need to follow a simple principle.
Calories Burned > Calories Intake
It’s the same as when you want to drain the dam. You have to drop more water compared to how much flows into it. Only this way you will be able to make it empty (let’s omit evaporation, etc.).
Cycling is one of the most challenging sports in terms of calories burned. According to a Harvard study, a 155-pound (70 kg) person burns about 260 calories in 30 minutes of moderate effort, and about 391 calories in 30 minutes of vigorous.
In the table below, you can see an overview of other selected sports and common activities and calories burned.
|Activity||Calories Burned In 30 Minutes|
|Light Office Work||56|
|Volleyball: general play||112|
|Food Shopping: with cart||130|
|Walking: 3.5 mph (17 min/mile)||149|
|Weight Lifting: vigorous||223|
|Running: 5 mph (12 min/mile)||298|
|Bicycling: 14-15.9 mph||372|
|Bicycling: 16-19 mph||446|
|Running: 7.5 mph (8 min/mile)||465|
|Bicycling: > 20 mph||614|
There are also tools on the internet that you can use to calculate how many calories you burn while cycling. Another study proved that overweight people can lose fat mass just as effectively by riding the bike to work as exercising in their leisure time.
Reduced Risk of Cancer
My neighbor once told me that cycling increases the risk of getting prostate cancer. It made sense to me at the time because the prostate is stressed while cycling. But when I read articles about cycling benefits, I found out that cycling actually reduces the risk of cancer. So, which is true?
A British study, whose research lasted over 25 years, states that people who commute to work on their bike have a 16% lower risk of dying from cancer compared to those who drive their car to work.
The benefits of cycling do not end here. The overall risk of death is reduced by 20%, and the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease by as much as 24%.
What about prostate cancer? This depends a lot on the time you spend in the saddle. According to a study by NHS (National Health Service UK), there was no association found between cycling and erectile dysfunction for people who cycled on average 4.2 days for 6.5 hours a week.
The interesting thing is that the odds ratio (OR) of 0.44 for prostate cancer increased for people that cycle 3.75 hours per week on average.
|Average Time in the Saddle||OR for Prostate Cancer|
|3.76 to 5.75 hrs per week||2.94|
|5.76 to 8.5 hrs per week||2.89|
|8.5 and more hrs per week||6.14|
Another study states that the risk of prostate cancer increases with the number of hours in the saddle.
However, there are concerns associated with this study because prostate cancer was reported only for men over the age of 50 (about 40% of the study sample). Only 36 men out of 2027 reported having prostate cancer (in the men in the over 50 age group).
There was also no control group, meaning that the authors could not compare the results. Yet, even this study did not found any association between cycling and infertility or erectile dysfunction.
A study from the University of Georgia found a link between a person’s fitness level and sleeping ability. The lower your fitness level the worse your sleeping ability.
I have noticed that I sleep much better when I exercise. I believe you know that feeling. And if not – make sure you start working out or ride a bike. It is worth it.
The opposite is also true. Sleep loss leads to slower and less accurate cognitive performance. Furthermore, it seems that sleep loss hinders muscular recovery and leads to a reduction in the immune defense. Yet, the authors of the study from October 2014 stated that further research is needed.
INTERESTING FACT: The management of Team Sky (World Tour cycling team) was aware of the effects of sleep on performance. That’s why their riders slept on the same mattresses during the Tour de France 2016. The hotel mattresses were replaced with their own. It was a part of their marginal gains strategy.
Does cycling before bedtime affect your sleep?
You may have heard from various experts that you should not exercise before bedtime, because your body should calm down and prepare for sleep. So, is it reasonable to exercise in the evening or ride a bike?
A 2018 study published in Sports Medicine journal examined 23 studies focusing on sleep and exercise. The result of this study is that light exercise can help you fall asleep faster and you will last longer in a so-called deep sleep.
On the other hand, if you overdo your exercise and the activity is highly intense an hour or less before your bedtime, falling asleep will take longer and the quality of your sleep will be worse.
TIP: Read more about sleep in the Why We Sleep book by Matthew Walker.
Reduced Risk of Diseases & Longer Life
Riding a bike can help you prevent diseases such as strokes, heart attacks, depression, arthritis, etc. A 2011 study concluded that it is better to ride in relatively higher intensities compared to low intensities (‘slow cycling’) to prevent coronary heart disease.
A study from the University of Glasgow also came to very interesting conclusions. The research involved 263,450 commuters in England, Scotland, and Wales for an average of five years.
These people were divided into five groups according to how they commuted to and from work (walking, cycling, riding in a car or on public transportation, mixed walking, mixed cycling*).
*Note: Mixed walking – a combination of walking and cycling. Mixed cycling – a combination of cycling and riding.
The group of people that commuted to work on their bike was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer, or all-cause mortality during the five-years.
A national study from England went even further. 43 million adults from England were involved in their study. The authors found out that walking and cycling to work lead to fewer heart attacks (1.7% reduction for both women and men, respectively).
Better Balance & Coordination
According to a study conducted by the University of South Dakota during a four-week observation of 3-5-year-old children, no-pedal bikes were found to improve their balance and functional fitness.
Thanks to the improved balance, these children can learn to ride a bicycle without the need to use bicycles with training wheels or tricycles. Their improved balance also reduces the risk of falling due to the loss of balance.
Improve the balance of your children by using a no-pedal bike
Two pilot studies have also shown that older adults have much better static and dynamic balance if they ride a bike compared to non-cyclists. At the same time, cycling is a significant predictor of decision and response time on a dynamic balance task.
Boosted Mental Health
When I asked my friends why they ride a bike, they usually answered me in a similar way. They want to live actively, see friends, push their limits, compete, visit new places but also relieve stress.
A survey conducted by the Cycleplan insurance company surveyed 971 cyclists in 2018. From the answers of 796 men and 172 women (3 respondents did not specify their gender), they found that a third of cyclists feel more relaxed after cycling. 8% of respondents even said that cycling helped them with depression or anxiety.
If I were to dig into more scientific studies, the Lancet study analyzed the data of 1,237,194 people aged 18 and over. As a result of their research, people who exercised experienced an average of 2 days of poor mental health per month, while those who did not exercise 3.4 days.
Team sports such as soccer helped the most (improvement by 23.3%). Cycling took second place. Cyclists experienced 21.6% fewer days of bad mental health.
The health benefits of cycling were also confirmed by a systematic review of 16 studies. Based on the results, cycling is an important contributor to better population health.
Improved Stamina & Endurance
If you’ve been cycling for a while, you may have noticed that you don’t breathe so heavily when walking up stairs or during other physically demanding activities.
Road cycling is one of the most demanding endurance sports. It’s no surprise that it increases your stamina & endurance. Another advantage is also that you can dose the intensity and length of the training according to your fitness level.
The video below shows that Jolanda Neff (Swiss cyclist) was able to keep her power output close to her peak power without any major signs of fatigue. During 20 reps, she lost only 10% of her output.
Strength is important. If you want to improve your cycling performance, I recommend that you also include strength training (especially in winter). Increasing the strength of especially the lower limbs improves short and long term endurance performance, as confirmed by these studies from 2010 and 2016.
Other Benefits of Cycling
Of course, cycling has many more benefits, some of them resulting from the ones mentioned above. I believe they don’t even need to be proved by studies because they are logical.
Cycling Can Save You Money
If you live near your work, let’s say up to 10 miles (16 km) and you have the opportunity to lock your bike at work, I recommend you start commuting there on your bike. Yes, you may have to buy a bike if you don’t have one yet. But believe me, cycling to work is worthwhile in the long run.
In addition to saving money on gas and car maintenance or public transport, you also vent your head after work. If you live in a city with heavy traffic, you will probably get to and from work much faster, because you won’t have to be stuck in traffic jams.
Calculate your return on investment in a bike using the online ROI calculator.
You may also be interested in my other article on How to choose a bike. I created an interactive guide that will help you choose the right bike for you. Make sure you don’t miss it!
Cycling Is Environmentally Friendly
This point is related to the previous one. Because you supply the energy to your bike yourself, it is a much more environmentally friendly means of transport than a car or public transport.
We should take the example of the Netherlands. Except that there is a wide network of cycle paths and the European Commission report from 2014 states that 36% of Dutch people most often choose a bike on the way to work.
DID YOU KNOW? Netherlands authorities pay people for commuting to work by bike.
You Make New Friends
I started riding my bike all by myself. Since I’m a competitive person, I wanted to find out how I was doing compared to others so I started looking for other cyclists in our area.
“Is there any bike group around here?” I asked a salesman in a nearby bike shop. To this day, I remember his reaction. He was smiling and responded “Sure, we ride every Sunday. But I have to warn you. We are pretty good. Come and see how it goes.” And do you know how it turned out?
I went all the way with them (around 70 miles, 110 km) and since then, I started riding with them regularly. We undertake joint rides and occasional holidays in foreign countries such as Italy, Croatia, etc.
Thanks to cycling, I met a lot of great people. If I can give you one recommendation – don’t be afraid to join your local groups. It will pay off. You will see the progress of your fitness level.
TIP: Check these cycling apps that every cyclist should download.
Cycling Is a Perfect Family Activity
You Get New Experiences
Thanks to cycling, I met not only new friends but also visited beautiful places. I have already mentioned this on the About page. I would probably never have visited the Italian and Swiss Alps without cycling.
Depending on who you ride your bike with, you’ll also enjoy a lot of fun, challenges, and discover new places that may not even be too far from your home.
I’ve encountered beautiful places 10 miles from my house that I didn’t know about. And when I started watching the Tour de France and other races, I broadened my horizons even further.
Cycling Improves Your Sex Life
When I first learned about this benefit, I was quite surprised. However, I did a brief research and found that there was some truth to it.
The British Heart Foundation did a survey and found out that 23% would choose to go on a date with a cyclist over other athletes. This fact alone does not prove cycling improves your sex life, right?
Well, if you take into account that cycling improves your fitness level, boosts your mental health, and improves your mood, you get your answer. Read more about cycling and sex life in this article on cyclist.co.uk.
Cycling Helps You Relax
Every time I feel angry, disappointed, or in a bad mood, I take my bike and go for a ride. All I need is 30 minutes of intense riding to get rid of any unpleasant emotions. After that, I feel incredibly relaxed.
Do you know that feeling?
I’ve already talked about this in the mental health section. Cycling is a great stress reliever. I know a lot of managers and entrepreneurs for whom cycling is like a drug, it helps them to get rid of stress and work pressure. Riding a bike is a cure for them that works and has many other benefits.
One Huge Cycling Benefit Myth Debunked
I feel it is important to mention one huge myth I found during my research. You may find articles on the internet claiming that cycling improves the strength of your bones. Well, studies show different results. Let me explain.
Cycling and Bone Density
I found several proofs that cycling does exactly the opposite. It does not improve bone density. In fact, Tour de France riders’ bone mineral density was lower by 10% in the lumbar spine, by 14% in the hip, and by 17% in the Wards’ triangle compared to the control group. The difference was surprisingly high even for the authors of this study.
This Norwegian study researched elite endurance cyclists and runners and found that 10 out of 19 cyclists had low bone mineral density while none of the runners had low bone mineral density.
Why is low bone mineral density bad for you?
Low bone density may cause osteoporosis. Osteoporosis symptoms include back pain, loss of height over time, bones cracking easier, a stooped posture, etc.
You may ask why cycling is not good for your bones. According to coach Tracy Christenson, there are 3 main reasons for that:
- Cycling is a non-weight bearing activity.
- The recovery time of cyclists does not include weight-bearing.
- Cyclists have low body mass.
I recommend you read this blog post at TrainingPeaks for more info on how to increase it.
Benefits of Cycling Conclusion
In the first part of the article, I summarized the benefits of cycling, which were proved by scientific studies. I spent more than 15 hours on this part alone. I went through dozens of studies and summarized their results in a comprehensible form.
The second part of the article summarizes the cycling benefits that result from the ones presented in the first part. These are the benefits that are often discussed and presented. It is up to you if you take advantage of them or not. I do and I can recommend you do the same.
In the end, I’ve debunked one cycling myth mentioned in various articles of established websites & magazines. I’ve provided empirical evidence to substantiate the claim about bone density.
If even these benefits of cycling do not convince you to sit on your bike, I am afraid you are a lost cause. I‘m just kidding, you have to find your own way to cycling. This article just opened one of the many doors you can go through.
Let me know down in the comments section what your favorite benefits of cycling are and which ones I should add. I am looking forward to your suggestions.