You don’t always need to go on a long ride to enjoy the benefits of bike riding. In fact, riding your bike to work every day instead of driving a car could suffice or hopping on your saddle for just a half hour in the morning or evening. As long as you’re getting the blood flowing and your heart rate up, you’ll gain advantages.
It’s smart to consider setting smaller goals like riding your bike to the grocery store, completing a joy ride, or starting a short-term ride streak, so you can develop the habit of cycling regularly. That way, you might prove to yourself what’s possible and work up to riding every day, and then, enjoy the everlasting perks of daily rides. What are those perks? Here, all the benefits of bike riding you can expect from frequent spins.
The Benefits of Bike Riding
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. So riding your bike for 20 minutes or more every day can definitely help you hit this mark. Keep these pay-offs in mind as you strive to hit that goal—or go beyond it.
More From Bicycling
1. An Environmentally-Friendly Commute
One of the first benefits of bike riding every day is, if you are strapped for time, one of the most logical ways to fit it into your schedule is making it part of your commute. “Cycling can be easily integrated into daily life, unlike gym workouts,” says Nick Cavill, a public health consultant.
Those minutes spent biking to and from the office quickly add up: Sixty percent of Portland cyclists ride at least two and a half hours every week, with the majority of that time made up by short rides for transportation. If your commute is really far, you can try biking part of it (to a train station or parking lot) or invest in an e-bike.
Also commuting by bike every day can help reduce carbon emissions and nitrogen oxides, according to research. Researchers of an analysis of 48 million bike trips completed in New York City from 2014 to 2017, found bike sharing helped reduce carbon emissions by more than 30,000 tons and nitrogen oxides by 80 tons, as well as decrease oil consumption by nearly 13,000 tons.
study published in The BMJ in 2017 associated commuting by bike with lower risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mortality. So there’s proof the perks of getting around on two wheels go beyond avoiding traffic to living more healthfully.
2. Better Brain Health
Another benefit of bike riding is once you’re in the habit of getting to work by bike, you’ll be better prepared for what comes next, such as opting for your bike over your car to run a quick errand on the weekend or riding to the gym. Adding in these dailys rides can bring one benefits like increased energy and reduced fatigue. Even a single 30-minute bout of exercise can improve reaction time, memory, and creative thinking, particularly if you turn up the intensity.
What’s more, a study published in PLOS One found riding either a conventional or e-bike for at least an hour and a half each week for eight weeks helped improve cognitive function, and wellbeing in older adults when compared to baseline and the controlled group. More specifically, researchers found bike riding helped improve executive function skills, which is the ability to focus despite distractions. Lastly, researchers noted e-bike riding improved reaction times.
“Cycling is one of the best exercises I’d recommend,” says Corey Kunzer, P.T., D.P.T., a physical therapist for the Mayo Clinic’s sports medicine department. “It’s easy on the joints and helps relieve stress.”
3. Increased Sex Drive
Enhanced mental health could result in newfound confidence. Men who exercise six or seven days per week have been found to self-report their sexual desirability as above average or much above average. (Women also reported increases, but not as drastic.)
There’s at least some reason, however, for them to think so highly of themselves. Exercise has been shown to lead to increased sexual drive and decreases in sexual dysfunction, to a point. Too much of a good thing can drive down testosterone levels in men, but just 20 minutes of vigorous exercise can make women more sexually responsive.
4. Weight Maintenance
Regular cycling can also help you maintain your weight. In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Bath, two groups of men massively overate—but only one group exercised daily. Despite consuming the same surplus amount of calories, after taking into account what was burned off with exercise, the group that worked out daily managed to offset the ill effects of overeating, like blood sugar spikes and unhealthy metabolic changes.
“One of the reasons that daily exercise could be so useful is because it allows your muscles to act as a ‘buffer’ to the food that we eat,” says Dylan Thomas, a professor of health sciences at the University of Bath and author of the study. “When you use your muscles, they break down carbohydrate and fat stores.” So even short bouts of riding like a quick commute to your office can put your body in a better place for the entire day.
5. Improves Sleep Quality
With all our modern-day stresses compounded with an exorbitant amount of screen time, disconnecting and falling asleep is tougher than ever these days. But external stimuli aside, a study from the University of Georgia found a link between cardiorespiratory fitness and sleep patterns. The study included more than 8,000 subjects ranging from age 20 to 85, and discovered a strong correlation between a decrease in fitness and the inability to fall asleep and general sleep complaints.
Translation: Moderate to vigorous cardiovascular activities, like cycling, were shown to boost fitness, therefore making it easier to fall and stay asleep. This benefit of bike riding may sound obvious to anyone who’s pedaled and experienced the postride combo of exhaustion and soreness (with some endorphins sprinkled in), but now the science is there to prove it.
6. Increases Lifespan
A final benefit of bike riding is that daily bike rides do more than make you healthier and happier: They also extend the amount of time you have to feel that way, even if you’re already creeping up in years. A recent study published in the journal, Circulation found that if you exceed the recommended amount of physical activity (150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week), you can reduce your risk of early mortality.
Michael Nystrom is a two-time IRONMAN finisher and a former editor at Active Network, Muscle & Performance and Oxygen Magazine. He covers all things cycling, from the Tour de France to new product releases, and has been published by USA Triathlon, Under Armour, Polar, Triathlete Magazine and more. When not swimming, cycling or running, he’s catching some waves or chasing his dog, Dingo.