What can biking do for you?
Obviously, biking (or cycling) offers many biological health benefits, of which the most important are: building strength and muscle tone, building stamina, increasing cardio-vascular fitness, eating up one’s calories, improving heart health, and improving one’s overall body coordination.
However, biking has other lesser known benefits, some of which have only been discovered just recently. For example, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine asked people who suffered from insomnia to bike every day for at least 20-30 minutes. As a result, the time it took for them to fall asleep was reduced by half and they slept for an hour more than they usually did. Professor Jim Horne adds that exercising in the daylight helps you regain your circadian rhythm and at the same time it gets rid of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Other than these, biking improves your body’s oxygen circulation and thus flushes harmful toxins out of your system faster. Because of this, it effectively protects skin from harmful UV rays and can make your skin look younger. Lastly, researchers from Illinois University have found that regular pedalling can boost your brain power. This is because cycling helps with the build-up of new cells in the hippocampus, the area in the brain which is responsible for memory.
The University of Bristol carried out a study on 200 people in the workforce. They found out that employees who exercised before work or at lunchtime (these employees usually exercised through biking to work) were significantly better at their time and workload management than their co-workers who didn’t exercise as much. The study also found out that the employees who exercised reported that they felt they had good interpersonal performance, which resulted to fewer breaks and a shorter time to finish tasks. Furthermore, these employees were more motivated and more capable in managing stress.
Aside from this, biking has been proven to boost creativity in people. Many people—musicians, writers, executives—take time to get on their bikes and pedal for a while when they want to solve mental blocks and make decisions. In fact, a study proved that 25 minutes of aerobic exercise can boost creative thinking by one measure. This is because the circulation of oxygen flows to your brain, sparking your neurons and giving you some “breathing space” from the hustles and bustles of everyday life.
Lastly, even when you feel down while you start your ride, pedalling through the miles will eventually put a smile on your face. Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, explains that this happens because biking tends to trigger the release of natural feel-good endorphins. As a result, the more you bike the happier you become.
The basic unit of society is the family. And there’s no better way to bond with the entire family than biking, because it’s an activity that the whole family can do together. Bikes come in all shapes and sizes, and even little children can come along for the ride in a tow-along buggy. More importantly, biking together regularly encourages your children to do the same when they grow up. A study found out that kids are influenced strongly by their parents’ choices, and if the habit of biking is ingrained early on one’s kids, they are very likely to continue this mode of exercise even as they grow older and independent.
To add to this, biking encourages people to befriend each other, because when bikers gather together, there is enough common ground between them even if they are complete strangers when they first meet. This social side of cycling offers you much more than friendship, because the University of California has found out through their research that socialising releases the hormone oxytocin, which buffers the “fight of flight” response. A study from Harvard Medical School also found out that people with more friends cut off the risk of an early death by 60%.
Lastly, biking is a perfect way to spend quality time together with your partner. You can take a slow, relaxed pace and just silently enjoy each other’s company while breezing through the city streets. This has done wonders for many romantic partners: because the exercise releases feel-good hormones, most couples feel warm towards each other after a ride. For those who are going through a rough time, biking might not be the answer, but it can definitely be a step towards smoothing things out.