The top 10 reasons to start cycling: what are the benefits?

We could well be preaching to the converted but here's 10 splendid reasons to take up cycling. Of course, there are far more than 10, but try these out when your non-cycling friends question your passion for life on two wheels.

Boost your health and keep the doctor at bay

Regular cycling is one of the very best ways of staying healthy. Studies have shown that cycling just 20 miles a week reduces your risk of heart disease to less than half that of people who take no exercise. And it's not just the old ticker that will benefit, a long-term study by Finnish researchers found that men who exercised at a moderate level for at least 30 minutes a day were half as likely to develop cancer as those who didn't. They cited cycling to work as a great form of moderate exercise that can help combat the big C.

In addition to helping your heart, the other main component of your cardio-vascular system, the lungs, also benefit from regular cycling. The lungs work hard during moderate cycling - an adult uses 10 times the oxygen whilst pedalling than they'd need to sit in front of the TV for the same period. This all means that your cardio-vascular system is strengthened over time helping oxygen to get where it's needed quicker.

Get there quicker

Studies conducted in Britain's congested cities such as Cardiff and Bristol repeatedly demonstrate that cyclists arrive at their destinations around twice as fast as car drivers.

Average city centre rush hour speeds are now so slow and jams so common that a cyclist moving at around 12mph will usually arrive before a vehicle along the same route. With the slow but steady rollout of urban bike lanes, commuting to work is far quicker and more enjoyable than sitting in a car going nowhere.

Give your brain a boost

Moderate exercise such as cycling helps blood flow to the brain which oxygenates brain cells and regenerates the brain's receptors, helping to boost brain power and memory.

Lose weight by cycling

Forget jogging – if you want a low-impact way of shifting some weight then cycling is what you want to do! Many people automatically go out for a run as part of a weight-loss regime, but for anyone with a larger frame, this can put a lot of stress and strain on your joints as it's a relatively high-impact activity.

Instead, hop on two wheels to help shift the pounds. The saddle takes your weight and your skeleton takes less of a battering.

Come together to enjoy family time

Cycling is a great family activity. Even the youngest can climb on board with the wide range of child and baby carriers available today and grandparents can join in too, as cycling is a low-impact type of exercise.

Encouraging children to take up cycling has huge benefits – they'll get a sense of achievement and independence when they learn to ride, will stay fit and healthy and will develop road sense faster than non-cycling kids.

Get a legal high

You may have heard of the 'runner's high' – a feeling of enhanced wellbeing after a good run, but researchers have found that this effect applies to most forms of exercise, including cycling. German neurologists visualised endorphins in the brains of volunteers before and after a two-hour cardio session using a technique called positive emission tomography (PET). Comparing the pre- and post-run scans, they found evidence of more opiate binding of the happy hormone in the frontal and limbic regions of the brain — areas known to be involved in emotional processing and dealing with stress. So it's no longer a myth – you really can get 'high' cycling!

Avoid urban pollution

A recent study has found that cyclists inhale considerably fewer damaging ultrafine particles than car drivers and bus and taxi passengers in an urban setting. This may sound counter-intuitive but scientists think cyclists breath in fewer fumes because they tend to stay towards the edges of roads rather than directly in line with exhaust pipes.

Save the planet

Obviously, a bike emits zero pollution when it's being ridden and it consumes just 5% of the materials and energy to build a bike than it does to build a car. Once you've arrived at your destination, up to 20 bikes can be parked in the same space that a car takes up.

Factor in the fuel - a bike weighs six times less than an average rider, whilst a car weighs 20 times more – and you're definitely doing your bit to save the planet when you take up cycling.

Stay happy, make friends

The social side of cycling means that riding with pals cements friendships. Researchers have found that socialising releases the hormone oxytocin, which buffers the 'fight or flight' response. They also found that those with the most friends cut the risk of an early death by more than 60 percent, reducing blood pressure and strengthening their immune system. The results were so significant that the researchers concluded not having close friends or confidants is as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.

Whilst you're riding around with your friends, you may well discover a smile spreading across your face. This is because mild-to-moderate exercise releases natural feel-good endorphins that help counter stress and make you happy – that's why GPs are increasingly prescribing exercise, including regular cycling, to combat depression.

Cycle your way to a longer life

When you take all the aforementioned positive benefits into account, it hardly comes as much of a shock to discover that people who take regular exercise tend to live longer than those who don't. A study compared over 2,400 identical twins and found those who did the equivalent of just three 45-minute rides a week were nine years 'biologically younger' even after discounting other influences, such as body mass index (BMI) and smoking.

They were at significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, all types of cancer, high blood pressure and obesity and exercise such as regular cycling helps the body becomes much more efficient at defending itself and regenerating new cells.

So there we have it. Taking up cycling is hugely beneficial – but you knew that already – time to switch on your non-cycling friends to the wonderful benefits of the bike.



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