Sitting in traffic every day on your way to and from work has never been anyone’s idea of a good time. It turns out that it’s not very good for your health either. On the other hand, we all know that regular physical activity is good for our health. The trouble is finding the time to work out in our increasingly sedentary digital world. A simple solution to this is to cycle to work. Commuting by bike is like having access to a free gym on wheels, so you can work out instead of sitting in traffic getting fat and frustrated.
As well improving your physical fitness, regular cycling offers many long-term health and well-being benefits. Recent research, including a large study published in the British Medical Journal, has shown that commuting to work by bike offers significant health improvements. Here are the main areas where regular cycling can improve your health:
1Improve your physical fitness
Cycling is a great way to develop your fitness, increase your stamina, become stronger and improve your aerobic fitness. Cycling uses most of your major muscle groups making it a good muscle workout. It is easy to vary the intensity of exercise on a bike, so you can start easy then build it up as much as you want.
2 Improve your lung health
Cyclists are actually exposed to fewer dangerous fumes than those who travel by car on the same road. While this seems counterintuitive studies have shown that motorists are exposed to five times higher pollution levels than cyclists using the same route. This is because vehicle air intakes are directly inline with the exhausts of the car in front and once these fumes enter the car, they are not dispersed like they are outside. On a bike you also have the option of taking quieter routes to further reduce your exposure to pollutants.
3Lower your risk of developing chronic illness
Cycling to work can actually reduce your chances of developing serious conditions like heart disease and cancer. A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2017 tracked over 250,000 UK commuters over five years and found that cyclists had 45% less chance of getting cancer and 46% less chance of developing heart disease. Even when accounting for road traffic accidents the cyclists in the study had 24% less chance of dying than all the other commuters. The NHS also advises us that regular cycling can also reduce the risk of other chronic illnesses like diabetes.
4Take fewer sick days
Cycling not only keeps you healthy, it is shown to reduce the number of sick days you’ll take off work. Colds and flu are the most common reasons why people take a sick day. Mild exercise, no matter the type, boosts your immunity and keeps your respiratory system healthy. A study of commuters commissioned by Sustrans showed that cyclists miss less than half the number of work days due to sickness compared to those who get to work by any other means.
5Improve your mental well being
A physically active lifestyle has been shown to promote wellbeing making people feel more relaxed and increasing self-esteem. Exercise like cycling can boost your mood by releasing adrenaline and endorphins as well as giving you a sense of achievement. In the short term, you will feel more alert and awake when you get to work, and you may even feel happier in the long term.
6Improve your mobility
Cycling is a low impact form of exercise, giving you a good physical workout without damaging your joints. This is because your body is supported by the bike placing less stress on your joints unlike weight bearing exercises. Crucially this causes far less tissue breakdown and inflammation than running, so you won’t be as sore after cycling than after a run. Not only a cardiovascular workout, cycling also increases muscle mass in your lower body. You will also be much less prone to injury when cycling.
7Control your weight
Cycling is a great way to control or reduce your weight as it raises your metabolic rate, builds muscle and burns body fat. You don’t need to ride at race pace as even steady cycling will burn about 500 calories per hour. If you cycle twice a day the number of calories will soon add up, even if you only cycle 15 minutes each way. Research in the UK has shown that a half-hour bike ride every day will burn nearly five kilograms of fat over a year.
There is a substantial body of evidence that shows exercise promotes healthier, more restful sleep. Exercise like cycling will help you to get to sleep at night more easily. It will also improve the quality of your sleep by increasing the amount of time that you spend in deep sleep, the most physically restorative sleep phase. Moderate, regular exercise is best for improving your sleep patterns, so a 30-minute commute by bike is an ideal way to enhance your nights rest.
9Boost your brain power
Exercise has been linked to improving brain health in many studies. There is even one study that shows cycling is especially good for your brain. The flow of blood around the brain was measured to increase by nearly 28% overall compared to resting. In some parts of the brain the blood flow rose by over 70%. Increased blood flow helps keep your brain functioning properly throughout your life. It could even help keep your mind alert later in life.
Physical and mental health is surely the most important thing to look after. If you can do this while saving lots of money and helping the environment, then it is hard to discount the benefits of cycling to work. Get fitter, feel healthier and improve your life by commuting to work by bike.
Hybrid bikes are great all-rounders thanks to their comfortable riding position and confident handling. Buying your first hybrid bike doesn’t have to break the bank. We’ve highlighted the best hybrid bikes under £500 to help you choose the right one for you.
Electric bikes are a great way to ride further with less effort. As you will arrive at your destination feeling fresh e bikes are perfect for cycling to work. The best e bikes for commuting offer a powerful boost to your natural pedalling power, so you can cycle more easily and arrive ready for a productive day at work.