We all know that exercise is good for us! It helps us to live longer, healthier lives full of energy and movement.
If you are like many women who are interested in moving your body, you have probably tried a number of different activities. The problem, however, for many of us, is finding something that we actually love.
Something that is fun, and something that we look forward to. The sort of activity that we WANT to do, not the sort that we HAVE to do.
For me, hands down, that activity is biking. I tried SO many different forms of exercise before discovering cycling.
Once I started riding, however, I never looked back. I know there are so many women like me who have benefited from cycling, and you can too!
Read on to find out more about the amazing benefits of biking, and why it’s a fantastic activity–no matter what your body type or fitness level!
How I Got into Biking
The early years…
My experiences with biking as a kid were incredible! Learning to ride on my pink and white huffy, spinning around the neighborhood (wheel spoke beads clanking of course)…it was amazing.
However, after a freak accident my second bike, (a baby blue Columbia), got mashed up by a pickup truck. Luckily, I was fine, but I was shaken up, I had no bike, and had no desire to get a new one.
As a teen I struggled with my weight, and struggled with my body image. I pretty much stopped being physically active altogether.
The adult years…
It wasn’t until my late 20s/early 30s that I thought about riding again. The couple times I tried biking as an adult it was not the best experience. I kept trying to use bikes that were the wrong size or for the wrong type of biking.
Have you ever tried to ride a mountain bike on the road when you’re out of shape and out of breath? I 100% do NOT recommend it.
A few years ago, my husband offered to buy me a road bike for our anniversary, thinking we could ride together. At first, I was skeptical, to say the least.
I mean, I knew that HE loved biking, but why was he so convinced that I would too? I was an occasional (and very slow runner). I wasn’t even really all that into being active, and preferred more sedentary activities.
My husband really thought I would enjoy biking. He wanted to share this experience with me, so I reluctantly relented and let him buy me the very nice bike.
I can still feel the trepidation of going to our local bike shop and picking out the bike. My concern was this would be a waste of time, energy, effort, and money. A whole lot of money.
But, it turns out, he was right. Once I had the right bike, the right bike size, and got to fly down the road? I was absolutely stunned.
This was a physical activity I enjoyed. One I actually looked forward to! And, I very quickly learned that there were so many additional benefits to biking I never even considered.
Physical Health Benefits of Biking
It almost goes without saying that cycling is phenomenal exercise for your physical health. When you break down the physical benefits, it’s not surprising so many people turn to biking as their primary form of exercise.
1. Biking is AWESOME Cardio
I have tried walking, running, the elliptical machine, and swimming to get in my cardio. I just didn’t love them. In fact, I hated some.
Cycling just felt different. Even though my but hurt from the seat at first, it was FUN!
Also, there is just nothing that gets my heart moving and the sweat dripping the way that cycling does. Not only that, but when you’re riding outside you move fast. Way faster than when you run. The wind helps cool you, even in the warmest temperatures.
I can safely say that when it’s super hot outside I would much rather be on my bike than sweating it out on the road in my sneakers.
The benefits are especially noticeable when you do a hilly route or do some intervals on your route. Getting cardiovascular exercise is so important for anyone of any age, and biking is an incredibly accessible and fun way to do it!
2. Biking Can Help You Lose Weight
Even though diet is an important component to weight loss, the benefits of regular exercise like biking can absolutely lead to weight loss. This can either be directly through burning more calories, or indirectly through motivating you to get some pounds off so it’s easier to get up hills!
In 2020 I lost almost 50 pounds, and I can honestly say that cycling was an absolutely integral part of my weightloss journey. For me it really wasn’t about the extra calories I burned, though I am sure that certainly helped!
It was more about how biking encouraged me to want to be a healthier person so that I could be a stronger cyclist. I found myself making healthier food choices and carving out more and more time to get on the bike, and the combination of these two things led to a healthier, lighter me who was able to FLY up hills.
Okay, well, maybe not fly up them…but certainly get up them quite a bit faster than I did before!
3. Cycling is Low Impact
Cycling is easily one of the lowest impact exercises around. Unlike running which puts a lot of strain on your joints, there is relatively little impact with cycling.
This makes cycling great for those of us who have joint problems or want to avoid them.
It also makes cycling a great cross-training activity for runners since some time on the bike gives your knees, feet, shins, and ankles a bit of a break. I have been plagued with knee problems since high school, and actually found that through strengthening my quads with cycling that I have had LESS knee pain than ever before!
4. Biking Improves Your Coordination
When you think about the actual mechanics of cycling, you start to realize it is quite technical. Though mountain biking and cyclocross are much more technical in regards to operating the bike than road cycling, even road cycling has its technical aspects.
Yes, so many of us learned to ride bikes as kids, and there is that old saying of course that something “is just like riding a bike.” In other words, it’s not necessarily a skill that we forget!
Still, even though you may not forget the skill of balancing on a bike, there is a huge benefit to practicing this skill and thereby increasing our coordination.
I, for one, am terribly uncoordinated. In fact, it is a running joke in my group rides that “Stacy stayed upright on her bike tonight!”
I tend to fall at least once or twice a season, it’s true! However, most people don’t fall as often as I do, and the benefits of practicing balance and coordination are just so apparent.
I am almost embarrassed to admit this, but before I became a cyclist I needed to lean up against a wall or sit down to put on my socks or tights. If I didn’t do one or other of these things I would legitimately fall RIGHT over.
Now with my increased coordination AND stronger leg muscles, I can easily stand on one foot and put on my socks! Maybe not the most glamorous accomplishment of cycling, but I will shamelessly admit I get a little rush each morning that I am able to do this.
5. Biking is for Virtually Any Fitness Level
This one is HUGE. It really doesn’t matter what your fitness level is. Pretty much anyone can hop on a bike, indoors/outdoors, and just ride.
It’s not like running where you really kind of have to work up to it. At least I know that when I started running I had to do a run/walk program. I certainly wasn’t the sort to roll off the couch and go run a 5K!
With biking you just hop on and pedal at your own speed. There’s no rush, there’s no hurry, you go as far as your legs (or your bum!) can tolerate and then next time you try to go a little further.
With the increased availability of e-bikes, biking has become even more accessible to those who are trying to develop a base-line level of fitness. E-bikes are absolutely amazing, because they can help you get up those really hard hills that would otherwise might be a deterrent to a would-be rider.
There truly is a bike for every body, and a body for every bike. It’s such a great, low-impact activity that virtually anyone can do!
Mental Health Benefits of Biking
Though the physical benefits of biking may be more outwardly apparent, the mental benefits to biking are just as, if not more impactful.
From stress reduction to the social aspects of riding with friends, there are so many different ways to improve your mental health through biking.
1. Biking Actually Makes You Happy
Who doesn’t want to be more happy? As much as we might resist working out from time to time, studies show that being active actually improves our overall happiness.
According to Cycling Weekly, a YMCA study of 1000 people in the UK reported that physically active people have a well-being score that is 32% higher than people who are inactive.
So, exercise in general makes us happier, and cycling in particular has so many benefits. There is nothing like the feeling of being outdoors on a beautiful day, and watching gorgeous scenery go by.
Biking makes you feel free, and makes you feel like a kid again. Sure there are times where you are working hard to get up the hill and are cursing the universe, but then you get to sail down that hill! I have even been known to yell a little “WHEEEE!” or two during a particularly awesome decent.
2. Biking is Proven to Reduce Stress AND Increase Brain Power!
Once of the coolest things about becoming a cyclist is that at the end of a hard day, all I want to do is get on my bike. This is pretty remarkable, for a girl who used to alternatively dive head-first into the pantry and come up with a plethora of cookies and chips.
According to this article in Bike Radar, “Researchers from the University of Illinois found that an improvement of only five percent in cardiorespiratory fitness from aerobic exercise led to an improvement of up to 15 percent in mental tests and ability to deal with stress.”
So many cyclists that I ride with refer to biking as a major stress-reliever, and essential to their mental health and well-being.
The rhythmic spinning of my legs on the pedals just soothes me in a way that very little else can. I like to think it is similar to counting strokes as a swimmer, or a runner’s feet pounding on the pavement.
Also apparently according to the same study, exercise increases our mental capacity…who wouldn’t want to be a little bit smarter? That certainly can’t hurt anything!
3. Biking Helps You Focus on What Your Body Can DO, Not What it Looks Like
A lot of women I have met in my life, myself included, at times tend to be critical of themselves and their bodies. Cycling allows me for the first time to really focus on what my body can do, instead of focusing on what it looks like.
I stopped seeing my body as overweight and fat. I began to see myself as athletic. I now see my legs as strong and powerful, instead of big.
Cycling truly boosts my body image and self esteem like nothing ever has. Instead of being critical about myself and my body, or getting down on myself, I lift myself up.
I focus on how far my legs will take me. On how many miles I can ride. I now have the confidence that I can get on my bike and spin my legs for 30 miles any day of the week.
The me 5 years ago didn’t think I could ride 5 miles. The me today can ride 10 times that and still be able to walk! That is pretty darn amazing.
4. Biking Gives You an Awesome Sense of Accomplishment
Biking proves that we are capable of getting ourselves from point A to point B with our own body power alone! Just that thought carries so much meaning, and so much strength.
Every single mile we ride on our bikes is a mile that we got somewhere all on our own. Things that once felt impossible are now totally possible.
10 miles on the bike feels easy. Getting up a steep hill? No problem.
Tackling that tough cyclocross course? Piece of cake.
Nailing that intense mountain biking trail? All in a good day of fun.
It doesn’t matter what type of biking you do, there are always goals to set, and milestones to achieve. Ticking off those goals feels so good, and learning that you can do hard things is literally priceless.
5. Biking is An Awesome Social Activity for Friends and Family
I think I saved one of the best benefits of biking for last. Biking is an amazing activity to do with friends, or to do as a family.
When I first started cycling, I joined a couple of different group rides that were run out of my local bike shop.
The people that I met in these groups became good friends, and I can’t imagine my life without them. I love riding with fellow cyclists, and now even lead a women’s group ride of my own. During cycling seasons I look forward to those Wednesday night rides so much.
Additionally, my husband, my son, and I all share a love for cycling and go on family bike rides all of the time. We started out with hybrid bikes and pulled him in a trailer, and now all three of us ride together!
We love that we lead an active lifestyle and can set this example for him. It’s an incredible feeling to be able to share this activity with him.
It’s so gratifying to see him be determined to get up a hill. I felt so proud this year when he took part in his first couple of cyclocross races as a six-year-old. I love to watch him push himself to get stronger and put more miles on the bike.
Cycling with friends and family is an amazing social activity. Riding together, laughing together, getting stronger together is such a gratifying, bonding experience.
But Wait! There’s More!
I know, I just listed 10 amazing physical and mental benefits of biking for women. But there really, truly is more.
The societal and environmental benefits of biking are enormous. Bike commuters are reducing pollution, fuel use, and traffic on the roads.
In addition to all of the incredible physical and mental benefits of biking, hopping on the bike can make a positive and impactful contribution to the environment. Not only does cycling benefit YOU, but it benefits everyone else as well.
Truly, the benefits of biking are immeasurable, and vast. Every cyclist I know has their one thing (or group of things!) that allowed them to fall in love with biking. If you are interested in being active, and want to try cycling, literally any of these 10 benefits will absolutely make it worth your while.
So, what are you waiting for? Hop on a bike, any bike, and RIDE!
Ready To Ride?
Have I convinced you to try cycling?! Here are some articles to help you get started.
About The Author
Stacy Ann Smith is a New England-based cyclist who strives to stay upright on her bike. She is the founder of Sascy Cycling, and her mission is to encourage women to love their body and focus on what it can do, not what it looks like. When Stacy’s not cycling she is teaching high school history and eating pizza with her husband and son.