Pros & Cons of Bicycling

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If you're eager to burn calories, build muscle and generally improve your health, look no further than bicycling. This simple sport provides a way to get in shape that's far cheaper than buying a gym membership or a home gym. The activity, as with all types of exercise, has risks. But by taking the correct safety precautions, you can get the most out of the workout and stay safe.

Calories Burned

  • Many people take up bicycling because of the calorie-burning benefits. Burning calories is crucial to losing weight, and few exercises can match the calories you'll burn during an up-tempo bike ride. According to Harvard Medical School, a 155-pound person can burn 372 calories in 30 minutes of cycling between 14 and 15.9 mph. The same person will burn 446 calories while maintaining a speed between 16 and 19 mph for 30 minutes.

Other Health Benefits

  • As an aerobic exercise, bicycling provides a wide range of physical and emotional benefits that can improve your quality of life and even help you live longer, notes MayoClinic.com. Such benefits include elevating your mood, bolstering your immune system, improving your stamina and strengthening your cardiovascular system. Cycling is ideal for those who are overweight or who have sore joints, since this form of exercise delivers minimal impact to your knees. If you are just beginning to exercise again, consider asking a personal trainer for help planning a safe, progressive workout regimen.

Physical Risks

  • Any physical activity puts you at risk of injury, and bicycling is no different. It's possible to strain or otherwise injure several muscles while cycling, especially those in your lower body. Sport Research notes that overuse injuries can occur among cyclists, including tendinitis, bursitis and stress fractures. Knee injuries are common, notes Bike Radar, but you can often alleviate pain resulting from such issues with ice and compression. Thoroughly stretching your body before cycling can limit the risk of developing muscle strains, but always consult with your doctor if you experience ongoing or severe pain.

Environmental Risks

  • Riding a stationary bike at the gym carries some risks, but once you're outdoors on your bicycle, you're presented with a handful of environmental hazards. Although you're susceptible to sunburn, more serious environmental hazards relate to the terrain on which you bike and the motorists around you. If possible, stay off the roadways and, if cycling at night, wear bright, reflective clothing and use a headlight on your bicycle. When cycling on the road, stick to the designated bike lines and obey all traffic rules as you would if you were driving a car.

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