Get Out and Ride
4 Healthy Reasons to Bike
In Copenhagen, nearly everyone bikes. There are five times as many bikes as there are cars, and around half of all commutes are made by bike. In a single day, the citizens of Copenhagen, combined, bike an astounding 800,000 miles. Copenhagen also has a growing reputation as one of the happiest cities in the world, perhaps partially because all that biking (and exercise in general) tends to reduce stress, increase motivation and improve overall health.
While the U.S. doesn’t possess the biking culture of Copenhagen, its citizens still reap the benefits of a good bike ride now and then. Because most people are already familiar with the basic pluses of exercise, we’ve assembled four cycling-specific benefits. Maybe they’ll be enough to convince you to dust off the ol’ 10-speed laying neglected in the garage.
1. Biking Spares Joints
Trying to avoid the joint aches and soreness brought on by repetitive, high-impact exercises like running? Biking is uniquely suited to strengthen bones and build muscle without damage and wear on your cartilage.
On a bike, your weight rests on your pelvic bones, so the bike takes the jarring impact of bumps in the road, not your legs. As you pedal, you engage muscles from your neck to your toes — first buttocks, then upper thighs, calves, hamstrings and hips in rapid sequence, while your abdominals keep balance and your arms grip the bike. It’s a full-body workout in one fluid motion. Resistance from the pedals strengthens leg muscles, which in turn strengthens your bones, while your joints get off easy.
And remember, the traditional upright two-wheeler isn’t the only option anymore. Trikes, recumbent bikes and other variations are entering the mainstream, so if you’ve got back pain, osteoporosis or balance problems, there’s still a bike for you.
2. Biking Is Fun
No scheduled classes are required to exercise on a bike. There’s no tether to a dank gym packed with sweaty people. No basement treadmill. Biking is exercise, sure, but far more thrilling and exhilarating than most.
Grab a bike, head outside, and remember the childhood thrill of seeing how fast you could go on the power of your own two legs. Try it once, and the good feelings can help make it a habit.
3. Biking Improves Lungs
When you bike instead of drive, you not only save the environment, you save your lungs. Aerobic exercise like biking improves lung capacity, increases oxygen uptake and reduces the amount of road pollution you inhale.
Researchers suspect that last benefit is because bikers ride on the shoulder, bypassing vehicles’ exhaust. Cars have air filters for road dust, but microscopic pollutants easily slip through filters and end up in the cabin — and the passenger’s lungs. By biking, you avoid creating pollutants for others to inhale and avoid inhaling them yourself.
4. Biking Boosts Brains
Exercise stimulates the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, which means healthier brain cells and a better, smarter you. But the brain boost from cycling goes even further.
Recent research shows that biking causes your brain to release chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and cannabinoids — all chemicals needed to counteract conditions like depression, anxiety and ADHD. In addition, biking actually reduces stress-related chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol. Some experts even say cycling can be more effective at treating mental conditions than psychotherapy and prescription antidepressants.
Antelope Island by Moonlight
Dress up in neon colors, don flashing lights and join cyclists of all ages for a local tradition: The annual Antelope Island by Moonlight Bike Ride. Every July, hundreds of cyclists gather under a full moon at Antelope Island’s scenic White Rock Bay for a noncompetitive 24-mile ride. The midpoint of the ride, historic Fielding Garr Ranch, often features food, drink and entertainment until around midnight. Participants receive a wristband and a T-shirt.
Register online for the 25th anniversary ride to be held July 27.
Bikers enjoy the Antelope Island by Moonlight Bike Ride. Photos courtesy of Davis County Tourism and Events