Cycle your way to better health

Running, walking and swimming are excellent forms of exercise, but if you're looking to change up your cardio routine, why not try biking? Cycling outdoors or indoors is a great way to get your heart pumping while putting minimal impact on your joints. Luckily, you don't have to be a Tour de France competitor to experience the health benefits of riding a bike.

By Daniel V. Gaz
Daniel V. Gaz

Running, walking and swimming are excellent forms of exercise, but if you're looking to change up your cardio routine, why not try biking? Cycling outdoors or indoors is a great way to get your heart pumping while putting minimal impact on your joints. And if you opt for an outdoor bike ride, you'll get to explore new areas, since you can cover more ground than you ever could on two feet.

Luckily, you don't have to be a Tour de France competitor to experience the health benefits of riding a bike. Even just 10 minutes of cycling a day can boost your fitness level.

So, what exactly are the benefits of bike riding? First, you'll get a great cardio workout that challenges your legs and core muscles without putting stress on your joints. In fact, cycling has been proven to benefit folks who have osteoarthritis. If your joints can't take the impact of running or walking, cycling can help decrease pain and increase your aerobic capacity, according to one study.

Whether you simply pedal around town, take an indoor cycling class or sign up for a bike race, you can reap the health benefits of cycling. Ready to get started? Try the four tips below:

  1. Set small goals. Even a short bike ride can provide health benefits. Start with just 10 minutes a day and eventually work your way up to a total of 150 minutes each week.
  2. Cycle indoors. When the weather isn't cooperating or you're crunched for time, hop on a stationary bike at home, or try a spinning class at your local gym or studio. If it's your first time, don't be afraid to get pointers from the instructor. Studies have found that cycling indoors for 45 minutes three times a week can raise HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and lower body fat percentage in just 12 weeks.
  3. Ease into it. Cycling can be intimidating, especially if it's been a while or it's entirely new to your fitness program. Get used to riding your bike in an open parking lot or on a lightly trafficked trail or path. Practice braking, signaling and shifting gears before you set out on the road.
  4. Incorporate biking into your daily routine. Do you always grab coffee down the street on Sunday mornings or get a few groceries after work once a week? Try taking your bike on a few of those trips to experience the utility of a human-powered, two-wheel machine.

Sure, it can be scary to try new activities. But once you get started, cycling will get easier as your confidence builds. And remember: You don't have to be a pro to reap the benefits. So what are you waiting for? Get cycling!

Experiments

Experiment with incorporating cycling into your exercise routine using Dan's suggestions.

  1. Use your bike — or borrow a friend's — to run an errand or get to work.
  2. Swap one planned jog or walk with a cycling or spinning workout this week.
  3. Socialize and exercise with friends on your bikes. Sign up for a beginner's lesson at your local bike shop if you need help getting started.
Dec. 29, 2016 See more In-depth