For some, cycling is a sport, but for others, it is a means of transportation or exercise. Irrespective of what it is to you, it is classified as aerobic exercise.
Cycling, like every other physical activity, has its health benefits and risks attached to it. Frankly, people who cycle regularly are physically fit and have lower risks of health conditions. Continue reading to learn more about the health benefits and risks of cycling.
Does cycling have any risk?
It’s important to ascertain first if there are risks involved with cycling. As a form of exercise, cycling has many health benefits to it. However, it also has a few risks, including road accidents. Hence, if you find yourself in one, you may refer to one of bicycle accident attorneys to represent your case.
Health benefits of cycling
1. It Helps your cardiovascular health
Cycling helps improve the heart’s state. People who cycle have a lower risk of developing heart conditions like cardiac arrest, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), rheumatic heart disease, etc.
Researchers also believe that cycling may help reduce the risk of cancer. Generally, you should know that your heart is happy when you cycle often.
2. It may help you to lose weight
Incorporating cycling into your daily life may help you to shed some weight. Cycling at high intensity would help you burn some calories to maintain a healthy weight. Cycling also helps burn food faster, preventing food’s excess build-up. Additionally, it helps add to your body muscle mass and strength.
3. It may help you improve your mental well-being
Cycling helps improve the mental wellness of those that engage in it often. The release of endorphins and adrenaline after cycling helps improve one’s mood. As an outdoor activity that allows you to leave the confines of your home and explore, you get to see new views and clear your head with the cool breeze blowing against your face.
Cycling also gives you time to meditate and process your concerns while cycling in quiet streets and alleys. Hence, it helps you see the better side of life.
4. It improves the regulation of blood pressure
One way cycling helps prevent cardiovascular diseases is by regulating blood pressure. Exercise, including cycling, helps maintain and regulate blood pressure within the healthy ranges. It is also effective for lowering blood pressure in patients with type 2 diabetes. Cycling also helps keep people healthy and more active to keep their hearts pumping.
5. It helps strengthen your legs
During cycling, your leg does most of the work pressing the pedals. This helps strengthen your leg muscles, especially your hamstrings, quads, and calves, strengthening your lower body. The more you cycle, the more you gain strength in your legs and even improve your cycling performance. This is why most cyclists have legs similar to those of bodybuilders due to constant cycling.
6. It improves your immune system
Exercise can be as powerful as medicines in preventing illnesses. One of the effects of cycling includes its benefit on the upper respiratory system. Constant cycling can help you to tune down the occurrences of a common cold. Your white blood cells also become more active, and other proteins needed in the immune system are rapidly produced. However, ensure you take a rest and eat adequate food immediately after cycling to maximise its effects on your immune system.
7. It can improve lung health
Cycling is crucial in keeping healthy lungs as it enhances the cardio-respiratory system. This is not only for people with lung conditions but also for those without. People with obstructive pulmonary diseases will benefit significantly from cycling in their rehabilitation process.
8. It helps reduce cholesterol level
The body has two significant types of cholesterol: the HDL (good) cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Too much bad cholesterol harms your health and could cause stroke and heart attack. Cycling helps regulate cholesterol levels within the healthy ranges and keeps the heart and vascular system safe.
9. It improves balance and coordination
It has been found that cycling can stimulate the central nervous system and develop the cerebral cortex. This would improve your balance and coordination, which is why cycling is often recommended as one of the rehabilitation steps for people who have balance issues or have difficulty walking.
10. It helps manage medical conditions
Regular cycling helps prevent a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise in the form of cycling can help prevent general health conditions, reduces mortality in patients with diabetes, and lowers the risks of heart attack, stroke, etc.
Risks of cycling
1. Road hazards
Bicycles are more susceptible to road accidents because they are not as sturdy as most other vehicles; they move on two wheels, have thin tires, and can be easily shaken by rough road surfaces.
Heavy rainfall could also cause a bike to slip and fall, and an inexperienced driver could lose control and end up on a sidewalk with injuries. Therefore, bicycle safety is always a must for cyclists.
2. Pains in various parts of the body
Cycling involves using specific body parts. Constant cycling using the wrong size of bike would affect areas like your neck, shoulders, wrists, knees, back, and others. However, this can be manoeuvred when you get the right bike size for yourself. Besides, pain in the leg muscles can be felt by beginners new to cycling. Do you still remember the pain you felt on your first workout day after some time away? That’s the same feeling. It lessens with time, though, as the body gets used to it.
3. Saddle sadness
This health risk is associated with constant cycling over a long time. It could lead to numbness in hands, intimate areas, and toes. It is usually caused by excessive pressure on those areas as the cycling continues. This could be a severe problem as it can result in sexual dysfunction and restriction of genital blood flow.
4. Exposure to pollutants
Vehicles account for one of the major causes of air pollution in the environment. Cyclists are often exposed to these pollutants as they have no covering to shield them. They are also predisposed to inhaling air pollutants, which can be a risk factor for adverse health effects.
5. Lower bone density
Cycling can help increase muscle mass and build strong bones. When done excessively, it could lead to lower bone density. Hence, the cyclist should ensure not to overdo it and take the necessary nutritional diets to compensate for any deficiency.
6. Nerve injury
When the body’s weight is placed on a nerve, it could lead to temporary paralysis of that area. Nerve injury is one of the most common risks attached to cycling. This is because the cyclist is subjected to supporting their body mass on the narrow seat of the bike, becoming susceptible to vascular or nerve injuries.
Due to the fragility of a bike, cyclists are susceptible to road traffic accidents that may lead to severe injury or even death. However, obedience to bicycle safety tips would reduce the probability of this from occurring.
8. Exposure to unfavourable weather conditions
Cycling can increase one’s exposure to unhealthy weather conditions. This is because a bike is without any form of covering. For example, a cyclist could get caught up in the rain and catch a cold from the downpour. Cycling could also increase exposure to cold in winter, leading to several health conditions like strep throat.
9. Constant exposure to UV rays
Harmful UV rays come from sunlight, especially during the hottest times of the day. These rays could be dangerous to the skin as they can cause various skin conditions like skin cancer. Compared to other drivers, cyclists are more susceptible to constant exposure to these harmful rays as they drive in the open air without a roof on their heads.
Other disadvantages of cycling
- May be unsuitable for people with disabilities: Cycling involves the use of hands and feet, so the loss of functionality in any of these might lead to the inability to cycle. Therefore, people with disabilities may be unable to cycle due to physical restrictions.
- Absence of bike lanes on some streets: Some cities make it easier for cyclists to enjoy their rides safely by adding bike lanes to the road structure, but some still don’t have these. The absence of bike lanes on the road structure might even increase the risk of hazards like collisions with cars while cycling.
Most of the health advantages of exercising can be gained from cycling. As there are benefits, it could also expose you to some risks. Some risks can be manoeuvred by taking necessary precautions and tips. Furthermore, exposure to UV light can be minimised by using sunscreens.
The use of safety gear, like helmets and nose masks, is also crucial and compulsory for any cyclist. Thus, obey road regulations to prevent a possible collision with other vehicles. In the end, you’ll realise that the benefits of cycling regularly oftentimes outweigh its possible risks.