10 Reasons to take up cycling

Improve your brainpower, relationships, health and happiness

Whether it’s to boost your fitness, health or bank balance, or as an environmental choice, taking up cycling could be one of the best decisions you ever make. Not convinced? Here are 10 major benefits of taking to two wheels:

1. You’ll get there faster

If you commute by bicycle in South Africa’s major cities, you’ll most likely get there in half the time of cars due to the major traffic. If you drive for an hour in Joburg’s rush hour, you’ll spend over 30 minutes going absolutely nowhere and average just 15 km/hr if that much, compared to averaging around 25-30 km/hr while cycling.

2. You’ll sleep more deeply

An early morning ride might tire you out in the short term, but it’ll help you catch some quality rest once you’re back to your pillow.

By exercising outside you are exposed to daylight. This helps get your circadian rhythm back in sync, and also rids your body of Cortisol, which is the stress hormone that can prevent deep, regenerative sleep.

3. You’ll look younger

Scientists at Stanford University have found that cycling regularly can protect your skin against the harmful effects of UV radiation and reduce the signs of ageing. Increased circulation through exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to skin cells more effectively, while flushing out harmful toxins.

Exercise also creates an ideal environment within the body to optimise collagen production, which helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles and speed up the healing process. You should also not forget to use some factor 30 sunscreen at least in order to protect your skin.

4. You’ll boost your bowel movements

The benefits of cycling extend deep into your core. Physical activity helps decrease the time it takes food to move through the large intestine, which limits the amount of water absorbed back into your body and leaving you with softer stools, which are easier to pass.

Aerobic exercise also accelerates your breathing and heart rate, this helps to stimulate the contraction of intestinal muscles. It also prevents you from feeling bloated, which helps protect you against bowel cancer.

5. Helps to increase your brain power

Researchers from Illinois University found that a I’ve percent improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness from cycling led to an improvement of up to 15 percent in mental tests. That’s because cycling helps build new brain cells in the hippocampus – the region responsible for memory, which deteriorates from the age of 30.

It boosts blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which fires and regenerates receptors, which helps ward off Alzheimers.

6. Helps to beat illness

Moderate exercise causes immune cells to be more active, so that they’re ready to fight off infection.

According to research from the University of North Carolina, people who cycle for 30 minutes, five days a week take about half as many sick days as couch potatoes.

7. You could live longer

Those who exercise regularly are at significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, all types of cancer, high blood pressure and obesity. The body becomes much more efficient at defending itself and regenerating new cells.

8. Helps save the planet

Twenty bicycles can be parked in the same space as one car. It takes around five percent of the materials and energy used to make a car to build a bike, and a bike produces zero pollution.

Bikes are efficient, too – you travel around three times as fast as walking for the same amount of energy and, taking into account the ‘fuel’ you put in your ‘engine’, you do the equivalent of 2,924 miles to the gallon. You have your weight ratio to thank: you’re about six times heavier than your bike, but a car is 20 times heavier than you.

9. Improve your sex life

Being more physically active improves your vascular health, which has the knock-on effect of boosting your sex drive.Male athletes have the sexual prowess of men two to five years younger, with physically fit females delaying the menopause by a similar amount of time. Research carried out at Harvard University found that men aged over 50 who cycle for at least three hours a week have a 30 percent lower risk of impotence than those who do little exercise.

10. It’s good breeding

A ‘bun in the oven’ could benefit from your riding as much as you. According to research from Michigan University in the US, mums-to-be who regularly exercise during pregnancy have an easier, less complicated labour, recover faster and enjoy better overall mood throughout the nine months. Your pride and joy also has a 50 percent lower chance of becoming obese and enjoys better inutero-neuro-development.

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