Is Riding a Bike Good Exercise?

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Any physical activity that you perform regularly to get moving offers many fitness-improving benefits. Your chosen workout needs to make you breathe a little harder, break a sweat and raise your heart rate. One such exercise, bike riding, can be performed by people of all ages, indoors or out, and unlike other activities, doesn’t require a lot of physical skills. Once you learn, you never forget. The many health and convenience benefits make this an effective exercise, which can help you live a long and fit life.

Helps Meet Fitness Requirements

  • To help you maintain and improve your health, guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend you engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intense aerobic activity each week. Bike riding can easily help you fulfill this recommendation. How you get in the 150 minutes each week is up to you, and you have options -- you can ride at home on a stationary bike, take to the roads or participate in a spin class. Strive to ride 30 minutes five times per week and if you struggle with this or can't find the time, spread the time out into three, 10-minute sessions each day.

Heart Healthy Benefits

  • As an aerobic exercise, bike riding helps reduce your risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. It strengthens your heart and, with a stronger heart, blood is pumped more efficiently. Riding increases your circulation, and this delivers more oxygenated blood to your muscles and carries away waste products such as lactic acid. Aerobic activity keeps your arteries clearer, notes the Mayo Clinic, which can improve your cholesterol levels.

Burns Calories

  • Whether you engage in stationary bike riding, road work or spinning classes, riding can help you control your weight by burning more calories. How much you burn depends on your weight, the length of time you exercise and the intensity of your riding. For example, if you weigh 155 pounds and exercise at home on your stationary bike at a moderate pace, you can burn 260 calories in 30 minutes. In a 45-minute spinning class, though, you can burn approximately 480 calories. Along with a healthy diet and strength training, riding can help you drop a few pounds.

Strengthens and Tones

  • Bike riding primarily strengthens the major muscles in your lower body -- glutes, quads and calf muscles, and to an extent the hamstrings. If you ride outdoors and your route includes hills, you may lean forward more to cut down on wind resistance and sometimes stand to provide short bursts of climbing power. Your change in position recruits and can strengthen upper-body stabilizing muscles. These muscles -- shoulders, upper arms, back, hip flexors, abs and core -- help you maintain control and balance. The more you contract your stomach muscles, the more you can tone and define your abs. Riding indoors on roller-style trainers also recruits the stabilizers.

Benefits Galore

  • Aside from the heart, weight control and muscle strengthening benefits, and whether you choose to ride indoors or out, cycling:

    • helps reduce stress levels
    • is low-impact and joint-friendly, unlike other pounding exercise, such as jogging
    • improves joint flexibility
    • builds stamina
    • improves coordination
    • can be performed alone at home on a stationary bike or trainer for individuals who prefer to exercise alone
    • can be social if you participate in a spinning class or go on group rides
    • can be performed year-round indoors
    • and can be used to rehab leg injuries.

References

  • Photo Credit Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images
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