Welcome to the last installment of our summer, outdoor fitness series for July. This month we’ve featured weekly exercises from THE BIG BOOK OF CYCLING FOR WOMEN by certified personal trainer, triathlete, and bestselling professional health and fitness author, Selene Yeager. No matter where you fall on the cycling spectrum, you know that great things happen when you toss your leg over a bike: freedom, empowerment, increased energy, stress release, better sleep, and let’s not forget a fit body. This week’s focus: the benefits of adding cycling to your regular workout routine.
Maybe you’ve clipped into a SoulCycle class, or rented a bike to leisurely ride through the city, but if you’ve yet to incorporate regular cycling or spinning into your workout cycle, now might be the time to start.
An ideal summer workout gets you outdoors and challenges you mentally and physically; cycling checks all of those boxes. It is one of the most efficient workouts when it comes to boosting your strength, weight loss, and even happiness.
“The medical literature is filled with reams of scientific evidence on the benefits of cycling for everyone, particularly woman,” writes Selene Yeager, professional mountain bike racer and Ironman triathlete, in her book The Big Book of Cycling for Women.
Not convinced yet? Here’s why you should be incorporating a cycling route (or even a regular spin class) into your schedule:
1. It’ll give you the freedom to travel
“For many of us, a bicycle was our first ticket to freedom — a vehicle allowing us to explore on our own and cover far more ground in a much more fun way than we ever could on foot,” Yeager says.
Think about it — all you need are two wheels, a helmet, and a lock if you wish to dock from time to time, then you’re ready to take off. Whether you’re riding for fun, or commuting to and from work, or simply exercising, every minute you spend on a bike will translate into results.
2. It’ll help you eliminate stress
“Riding your bike lowers your stress level by burning off stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol,” Yeager adds. “It also makes you stress resilient.”
As Yeager notes, there’s nothing that a good bike ride can’t fix — and you can certainly bike away from the things that are causing tension in your life. Literally.
3. It’ll make you fall in love with your body
Those legs that let you push uphill or sprint on a flat road? That powerful core that helps you achieve a new personal goal? Those are all signs that your body is doing exactly what you need it to do, which makes all of the hard work that goes into cycling undoubtedly worth it.
4. It’ll boost your happiness
Just like antidepressants or psychotherapy, Yeager notes, “exercise like cycling boosts production of feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.” When those are released, and you pedal through a trail, the high of the workout is bound to last even after you’ve clipped out of the bike.
5. It’ll improve your sleep
Rest is one of the best and most effective recovery methods. It is critical to your muscle development, weight loss, and overall health. And yes, cycling can help with that too. Based on research from Stanford University, Yeager finds that cycling “can help you fall asleep faster, sleep more soundly, and get a whole lot more shut-eye overall.”
6. It’ll make you smarter
As you clock the miles on your bike, you’re also investing in your brain, research shows. Your brain develops increased blood vessels, which allow for increased oxygen to power your brain, Canadian neuroscientist, Brian Christie, PhD notes.
Also, throughout the workout, the number of neurons you produce increases, which allows for better communication between cells.
7. It’ll raise your overall health
“Moderate aerobic exercise is good for you,” Yeager says. “Vigorous exercise that makes you huff and puff and sears your muscles with a warm burn is good for you. Easy aerobic exercise is good for you. The beauty of cycling is that it can be all of those things for everybody.”
It can lead to weight loss, improved heart health, and for women, even a lower risk of developing breast cancer, studies have shown. Above all, it can lead to a longer and healthier life, and that might just be enough reason to strap into the pedals and go for a ride.
Fitness routines courtesy of Rodale, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright 2015 from The Big Book of Cycling for Women by Selene Yeager.
Photo Credit: iStock