We are consistently bombarded with fad diets and health tricks trying to short cut the arduous road to fitness and cardiovascular, neurological and immune health, however, unfortunately, if something sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is. The truth is that there are no quick ways to lose weight or to prevent the myriad of diseases associated with ill health. However, what is true, is that cycling is one of the best ways to get started.
First off, the most important thing is to be active, as physical activity is associated with significant decreases in all-cause mortality, your chance of dying, but also markedly reduces the individual risks of many serious conditions, such as cancers, dementias, almost every type of cardiovascular disease and the effects of aging. So get out there, but before you do, let me tell you why I think you should do it on your bike.
This graph shows the importance of physical activity in preventing death, especially in the cases of being previously diagnosed with a medical condition such as a high blood pressure, or obesity. This shows that even moderate physical activity, the green bar, dramatically reduces your chance of dying when compared to someone who does little physical activity. (1)
Cycling, in my opinion, is the most convenient and enjoyable form of physical activity, it’s an easy substitute for motorised transport, so it can be easily worked around your larger commitments, such as work or university, and this is crucial, as the most common excuse for not exercising is a lack of available time. Beyond this, when practiced safely, cycling is safer than walking (2), and reduces the risk of longer term complications for diseases such as arthritis when compared to running. Cyclist have also been observed to live for up to 14 months longer than the average life span, reinforcing its efficacy as a medium for physical activity (3). Cycling is such a varied sport, with so many different disciplines, so there is always something new to try, you’ve got road, mountain, track, triathlons and dirt jumping just to name a few.
However, the main reason many of us pick up a new physical activity is to lose weight, and again cycling comes out on top. Recent studies have shown that when weight reduction is the primary objective of the exercise, the actual intensity of the exercise, i.e vigorous or moderate, is less important the time actual time spent doing the activity, i.e, the duration. So yes, cycling may be lower intensity, with a MET score of approximately 8, than something like running or tennis, with a MET score of approximately 10, but from a base level of fitness, you can perform the action for much longer, resulting in an increased weight reduction overall.
Over the coming weeks I’ll explain in more depth as to how physical activity, and specifically cycling can prevent diseases, promote weight loss and improve your mood, but as always, if there is anything more specific you want to know, or something you disagree with, leave a comment, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
(1) Warburton, D. E., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Canadian medical association journal, 174(6), 801-809.
(2) “Daily Travel by Walking and Bicycling”. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Retrieved 2009-09-29
(3) De Hartog, J. J.; Boogaard, H; Nijland, H; Hoek, G (2010). “Do the Health Benefits of Cycling Outweigh the Risks?”. Environmental Health Perspectives. 118 (8): 1109–1116. doi:10.1289/ehp.0901747. PMC . PMID 20587380.