Why cycling’s great exercise for all

July 14, 2022

Cycling has few limits when it comes to age. From toddlers just mastering their technique, to more senior cyclists enjoying a ride through the park, people from all walks of life can enjoy the hobby.

 And at W5Physio, we massively encourage it!

The health benefits of cycling are huge and whether you’re a serious cyclist clocking up hundreds of miles per week, a spin class addict, or simply enjoy a Sunday outing with the kids in tow, there’s lots of reasons why a bike ride should be on your to-do list this weekend. 

Here’s why:

  1. It’s great for building strength – cycling provides a workout for all the major muscle groups. In particular, it’s great for the glutes (Gluteus Maximus), hamstring muscles (Biceps Femoris & Semimembranosus) and quads (Vastus Medialis, Rectus Femoris & Vastus Lateralis), as well as calf (Soleus, Gastrocnemius Lateralis & Medialis) and shin muscles (Tibialis Anterior). It can also improve your overall balance.
  2. It’s good cardio-vascular exercise – cycling’s guaranteed to get your heart rate pumping and a varied route (a mixture of uphill and downhill terrains) will act a bit like interval training too. Doing regular cardio further improves things like stress levels, sleep quality and immunity.
  3. You can do it on the go – think about cycling to work or to visit friends/family in place of driving the car. If you need to travel somewhere anyway, pedalling there means you’ve fitted in a workout without having to find extra time to visit the gym.
  4. You can take it at your own pace – cycle at any speed or intensity you feel you can manage. If you’re recovering from injury or illness, you can build up your workout slowly and gradually. If you’re looking to push yourself, cycling can be super-challenging! 
  5. Do it indoors or out – If the weather’s good, head outdoors. If not, every gym has exercise bikes, and there are lots of options for cycling at home, especially with the rise in popularity of online and virtual biking classes.
  6. Anyone can do it – most people have the ability to cycle. As the saying goes “It’s like riding a bike.” It’s a non-weight-bearing activity and is generally easy on the joints. It’s a smooth, gentle form of exercise for ankles, knees, hips and back. 
  7. It’s great fun – cycling encourages quality family time, socialising, and the chance to explore new places. Even indoor/sedentary cycling and spin classes offer the chance to join communities and exercise with friends. 

Tips for exercising on a bike

Moderate cycling’s said to burn an average of 400 calories per hour. Combine that with the fact that cycling’s generally safe and effective for people with health conditions including diabetes, high cholesterol, and arthritis (it’s particularly recommended for osteoarthritis of the knee), and there are a whole host of reasons why it’s worth a go.

  • Start every ride with a 5-10 minute warm up. Try some basic stretches before getting on your bike and then start by cycling slowly and steadily. 

Here’s some we recommend for strengthening and preparing for cycling: 

Step ups

Reverse Lunges

If you’re slightly more advanced and used to cycling, why not try adding these too?

Bulgarian Split Squat

Single Leg Squats

  • Once you’ve warmed up and started with some gentle cycling, you’re good to get into the main part of your workout. As your heart rate rises and you start to sweat, try upping the intensity/speed. But always listen to your body and do only as much as feels comfortable.
  • Start off with shorter, flatter routes (or on low intensity settings if using an exercise bike) and build up to longer routes, inclines, and more challenging settings as you become stronger and fitter.
  • Try interval training on your bike. It’s not just for runners or HIIT enthusiasts. Now known to be a really valuable way of exercising, because of its ability to make your heart stronger and reduce both heart disease and high blood pressure, interval training (i.e. alternating short, high intensity bursts of activity, with slower, more low intensity movements) works perfectly when working out on a bike. 
  • If your only exercise is cycling, look to do a minimum of 30 minutes three to five times a week to see changes in your fitness and wellbeing. 
  • If you’re a more experienced cyclist, try mountain biking for a high intensity workout that tests your core and upper body just as much as your lower body. 
  • Pregnant, lacking core strength or confidence on a bike? Try sticking to indoor cycling to ensure stability. You’ll still get a great workout even through stationary cycling. 
  • Always consider safety. The correct kit can help including suitable clothing, footwear, sunglasses, and helmets for outdoor cycling. Plus, having a good knowledge of road safety and the highway code is important for staying safe if biking on public roads. Good hydration is vital for cycling too. 
  • As with any exercise, finish off with a gentle cool down and stretch. 

Ready to get those legs pedalling? As one of the best forms of exercise, guaranteed to strengthen your body and refresh your mind, we’re sure you won’t regret it. Not only do our team encourage cycling as a way of keeping yourself in tip-top condition some of our physios are keen cyclists themselves. 

That’s why we’re here to help. Never undertake any new form of exercise if you’re not sure whether it’s suitable for any underlying conditions/injuries you may have. For more information on anything in this article, or for tailored advice or a bespoke exercise plan, get in touch with us today. 

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