The Hidden Health Benefits of Cycling

The standard story

The standard story of the cycling-health connection goes something like is:

  • Cycling is a form of physical activity
  • More physical activity means more calories burned
  • Burning calories helps regulate body weight, as measured by Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • A healthy BMI is associated with decreased disease risk (e.g. obesity, diabetes, cancer and stroke)

An alternative story

Here is an example of a practical, uncontroversial and straightforward health benefit you won’t find in a bicycle master plan or regional health strategy:

Osteoporosis

All individuals experience age-related changes in bone mass and elasticity. But women, in particular, are at risk; post-menopausal women can lose 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass each year.[2] Luckily, bone health is more manageable than was previously understood. Basically, bone — like muscle and brain power — is governed by the principle of “use it or lose it.” And how do you “use” your bones? By stressing the skeleton with load-bearing exercise (otherwise known as strength training). “Using” your bones encourages bone formation and minimizes bone absorption, slowing or halting the net loss of bone matter that inevitably occurs with age.[3]

Falls

Falls are the leading cause of injuries among seniors, affecting one in three each year.[5] Yet for many years, the causes of falls were somewhat mysterious. Early studies, such as Blake et al. (1988), suggested (somewhat circularly) that “tripping” was the cause of the majority of falls among the elderly in the home.[6] In recent years, researchers have begun to deconstruct the “tripping” narrative, finding that falls occur even when there are no obstructions to trip over and when neither vision nor cognitive ability are impaired. In other words, falls among seniors can seemingly happen out of nowhere.

Ride a bicycle. Get active strong.

Cycling involves a whole universe of health benefits that, for the most part, aren’t being talked about. This post has outlined just a couple. There is great potential for cycling to aid in the prevention of Osteoporosis and falls — simply because cycling develops leg strength.

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Aashish Mathew George

Aashish Mathew George

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Entrepreneuring | curious thinker | technology advisor | photographer at stories by AMG | CTO of paradigm IT |