The Dutch cycle more than any other country in the world; they have understood the benefits of riding bikes. Take a moment to think about the following statistics about cycling in the Netherlands:
- The country has a population of 17 million people. Between them, there are 22.5 million bicycles.
- 25% of all Dutch people cycle every day.
- The average Dutchman/woman cycles 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) a year.
- 17% of Dutch people aged over 65 cycle every day.
What is it that the Dutch know about cycling that the rest of us don’t? It is said that they live longer, healthier and happier lives, so could it have something to do with cycling?
This article looks at the benefits of riding bikes. Most online resources that you will find on this topic focus on health benefits. We will talk about those, but we will go further and look at cycling benefits beyond health.
1. Health benefits of riding bikes
Whether you take a spin class or cycle outdoors you are raking in plenty of health benefits. Each time you get on your bike whether you are purposely cycling for health or not, the following happens:
- Better cardiovascular function
Each time you cycle you work up a sweat and your heart beats faster, sending more oxygen to your cells. This makes your heart healthier over time, and you build tolerance for high impact exercises.
- Better sleep
Sleep is necessary for good health. Unfortunately, many of us can’t sleep well enough to be properly rested each day. We worry about work, family, finances or we are not able to sleep long enough because of our surroundings.
Cycling can change that; a study by the Stanford University School of Medicine showed that people who cycle for 30 minutes every morning were able to fall asleep faster and sleep for longer.
Cycle more if you want to look younger for longer. A research study by scientists at Stanford showed that people who cycled on a regular basis were able to maintain younger looking skin for years.
The explanation goes like this: when you cycle you improve oxygen delivery to skin cells which boosts collagen production. Collagen is the elastic stuff in your skin that makes it nice and perky.
- Constipated? Get on your bike
Yes, cycling is also good for moving your bowels. When you cycle, you limit the amount of water that is absorbed from your gut into your body leaving you with softer stools that are easier to pass.
Cycling also primes your intestinal muscles enabling them to contract well enough to enable regular bowel movements.
- Get smarter with cycling
When you think of cycling benefits getting smarter might not come to mind, but scientists at the University of Illinois found that people who cycled on a regular basis were able to score up to 15% higher on mental tests.
Cycling helps with cell development in the hippocampus which leads to better memory, and can also help reduce the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s.
- Faster recovery
According to a study by scientists in the University of North Carolina, people who cycle for 30 minutes a day take as half as many sick days as those who don’t every year. What’s more, people who cycle after an illness tend to heal faster than those who don’t. This can be directly linked to higher oxygen levels in the body.
- Longer life
A study at King’s College London looked at identical twins. Those who cycled 3 times a week for 45 minutes each time were found to be 9 years biologically younger in all aspects of health, even taking into account factors such as smoking and high BMI.
- Better sex
According to a study at Harvard University, men who cycle at least 3 hours a week reduce the risk of impotence by 30%. Another study showed that people who cycle on a regular basis have higher sexual prowess and women are able to delay menopause by as much as 5 years.
- Great for pregnancy
Cycling is safe for pregnant women so long as they take the right safety precautions. Women who cycle during pregnancy report faster labor, fewer birth complications and they recover faster than those who don’t. Studies show that children who are born to avid cyclists are less prone to obesity.
- Lower risk of heart disease
According to a study at Purdue University, cycling on a regular basis can lower the risk of heart disease by as much as 50%.
- Lower your risk of cancer
A long term study carried out in Finland showed that men who cycled regularly reduced cancer risk by about 50%, and women were able to lower breast cancer risk by 35%.
These are only the health benefits of riding bikes. There are many more, so keep reading to find out.
2. It is really cheap
Today, many households are financially strained, and a significant portion of their earnings goes to fuelling their cars. Think about how much you would save if you didn’t have to go everywhere by car.
Cycling is one of the cheapest modes of transport that there is. Once you invest in a good bike, a helmet and a bike kit you are good to go. You may spend some money on repairs and maintenance but it’s nothing close to what you spend on gas every month.
If you can get your family in the habit of cycling you will spend less every month, not to mention you will always be fit and healthy.
3. Anyone can cycle
Man, woman, child, old or young, anyone can cycle. Cycling doesn’t require you to be super fit or strong; all you need to know is how to ride a bike and you can go anywhere you like, any time you like.
4. Cycling is for the whole family
One of the best benefits of cycling is that you can all go out on your bikes as a family. You can teach your children how to ride a bike as soon as they are old enough to walk and before long you will all be able to go cycling around the neighborhood, out on trails, on errands and more.
You can include your parents too – if they know how to ride a bike you can get them electric bikes that don’t require lots of effort to ride.
Tandem bikes are a good idea for families that like to spend time together outdoors.
5. Cycling is convenient
Cycling is convenient in so many ways. You don’t have to do any special preparation to get on the move – check your tires for air, make sure your bike kit is intact and off you go.
Parking a bike is easy and doesn’t take up much space (check your city bylaws on where to park bikes).
You can use your bike to chores such as shopping and paying bills.
You can use your bike to visit friends.
You can use your bike to go to and from work (one study shows that people who cycle are more productive than those who don’t).
So long as you don’t cover long distances on a daily basis a bicycle is the perfect way to get around.
6. Cycling gives the environment a boost
When you cycle you don’t use fossil fuels, and you reduce your carbon footprint. If you have been looking for ways in which you can help preserve the air around you try cycling.
7. Cycling is a great way to get the children out of the house
Biking exercise benefits can be enjoyed by your children too. Many parents complain that their kids are indoors all the time, stuck to their screens. A bike might help get your children outside where they can enjoy the outdoors and become healthy, fit and more social. Check out this article on Cycling for Kids: Health Benefits for in-depth details.
8. Biking is a great way to socialize
Are you tired of meeting people in bars? How about you invite them to go out riding on a Saturday? You will all get a good workout, enjoy lots of fresh air, share a picnic and best of all, you get to talk to one another the way nature intended.
9. Cycling makes cities safer
Studies have shown that cities where people cycle a lot have fewer traffic accidents. Why? Because drivers know to be on the lookout for cyclists, so they drive more slowly than they otherwise would. If you would like to see traffic slow down in your city start a campaign to get more people on bikes and get everyone to advocate for lower speed limits.
10. Cycling gets you off your butt
Most of us spend almost all day sitting at a desk, and when we leave the office we get home only to sit some more before we go to bed, only to wake up the following day and repeat the cycle. That’s no way to live. If you buy a good bike you will become less sedentary, and before you know it you will have something to look forward to every day.
How Can I Cycle More?
As a busy professional who understands the benefits of cycling, you may find it hard to find time to get on your bicycle two or three times a week. Cycling into work may not be an option because you don’t want to get there all sweaty, and you want to have your car with you for meetings during the day.
When it comes to cycling you have to make time. There are many professionals who go to the gym first thing every morning because it gives them a mental and physical boost. How about skipping the gym twice or thrice a week and cycling instead?
On weekends and holidays, plan for activities that allow you to use your bicycle as much as possible. If you have to go around to a friend’s house use your bicycle instead of driving. If you have to pick up groceries for a meal use your bike instead of your car.
The more you cycle, the more it becomes second nature.
Get your family in the habit of cycling too. So long as you live in a safe neighborhood and school isn’t too far away you can let your children cycle to and from school each day. If there are bicycle clubs near you get a family membership and participate in as many activities as possible.
What are the cons of cycling?
You know the benefits of cycling, but are there any drawbacks that you should be aware of?
- Sadly, the biggest drawback of cycling is dangerous motorists. Cyclists can be hit by passing cars and sometimes accidents can lead to serious injuries or even fatalities.
It is very important to make sure that your bicycle has reflectors and proper lighting especially if you ride after dark. There are some really cool bikes in the market that are designed for riding at night.
- The other problem you may experience with cycling is bad weather. When it snows or rains heavily you will not be able to go out on your bike. Fat bikes can tackle snow, but only to some degree. If the weather isn’t very good you should keep your bike until roads and bike paths are dry enough for you to cycle safely.
Other than these two drawbacks there is nothing else to worry about. The benefits of riding bikes far outweigh the disadvantages.
We started by talking about how much people in the Netherlands cycle. From the benefits of riding bikes that are outlined here, you can see why – they know that there is a lot to be gained.
You too can enjoy cycling benefits by making a one-off investment in a bike. Whether you are cycling for health, cycling for the environment or because you enjoy it, the benefits of cycling speak for themselves.