Cycling is an accessible sport that helps hone your cardiovascular fitness and enhances your health, but is not without drawbacks. Low-impact and beginner-friendly, cycling is accessible to most people. However, you have to incur the cost of equipment, hope for sunny days and watch for dangers on the road. Cycling can be a super part of your fitness routine, but it shouldn't be the only exercise you do.
Bicycling is an activity most people learn as children. Even if you haven't ridden in years, your muscle memory enables you to jump back on and get into the swing of cycling pretty easily. Most newcomers to bicycling can pick it up readily, even if it takes some coaching from more experienced riders. One negative aspect of bicycling is the potential cost of the sport. You can acquire a used bicycle for relatively little cash, but if you want higher-end models, be prepared to shell out a grand or more. Helmets, speedometers and gear such as padded shorts and water packs can also increase the cost. Stick to the bare minimum -- a bicycle and helmet -- if you want to keep the cost down. Bicycling is also weather dependent. Cold weather, rain, ice and snow will keep you indoors. Climates with warm weather and a preponderance of sunny days are best suited for outdoor riding. If the weather is foul, you can always hook your bike up to an indoor trainer or ride a stationary bike, but these compromises aren't quite like the experience you get from riding outdoors.
You can take an easy ride with everyone in the family -- from grandma to your 5-year-old -- or a heart-pumping ride with competitive friends. People with joint pain or who are overweight may feel more comfortable cycling than when doing other cardio activity, such as jogging or basketball, since it puts less stress on the back, hips, knees and ankles. The comfort of cycling is a potential con, especially if you give in to the temptation to cruise or coast your way through your ride. To improve your fitness levels, however, seek out hills and hit powerful speeds on the flats.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you fit in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio every week to promote good health. Cycling on a flat road counts as moderate-intensity cardio, while hitting hills or going faster than 10 mph counts as vigorous-intensity activity. Cycling at a speedy rate can also sizzle significant calories to help you maintain your weight. In a half hour, a 155-pound person going 12 to 13 mph burns about 298 calories. Although cycling offers benefits to your heart and your waistline, it doesn't count as a weight-bearing exercise that improves bone density, notes the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Instead, you need weight-bearing activity that has you resist gravity to put stress on your bones, which then helps them grow back stronger, to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis or other related bone diseases. Include resistance training along with your cycling or cross train with running or hiking to provide your body with variety and the weight-bearing activity it needs.
Safety and Health Risks
Cycling gets you outdoors, which can enhance your exercise experience explains a study in the journal "Extreme Physiology and Medicine" published in 2013. When you workout outdoors, you are more likely to feel revitalized and positive -- which could increase your adherence to exercise. But cycling outdoors does come with inherent safety concerns. You put yourself at risk of being involved in a traffic accident when cycling on the road. In September 2011, "The New York Times" noted that riders and cycling officials concede that accidents in cycling races have increased in number and severity in recent years, although official statistics are not available. Even if you are a casual cyclist, you must obey all the laws of the road and ride defensively to protect yourself from harm. A study in the journal "Environmental Health Perspectives" published in March 2011 also noted that cyclists are more likely to inhale air pollution than motorists. If you live in an area with compromised air quality, check the conditions before your ride to evaluate if going out makes sense that day.
- Cleveland Clinic: What is the Best Type of Aerobic Exercise?
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Weightbearing Exercise for Women and Girls
- Environmental Health Perspectives: Cycling: Health Benefits and Risks
- The New York Times: Sport Grows, and Grows More Perilous
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- Extreme Physiology and Medicine: The Great Outdoors: How a Green Exercise Environment Can Benefit All