You ride on the trails, you bike to work, you spend your weekends racing with friends, or you simply just like to hop on a bike and go for a casual bike ride. Whatever your reason, there are so many health benefits of cycling outdoors. Regardless of how far you ride, cycling is one of the most efficient modes of transportation around the world.
Even though I’m an indoor cycling fanatic, I like to get outdoors and enjoy nature with a casual bike ride when the weather is favourable. Many people have the mindset that you need to go to the gym to stay fit. I’m here to tell you that it’s simply not true. What you do outside of the gym is just as important as what you do in the gym. In fact, you don’t even need a gym membership to get fit or to stay healthy.
Health is comprised of many things; fitness, nutrition, mindset, stress relief, and so much more. There are so many benefits of cycling outdoors beyond fitness that can benefit you from head to toe and improve your health.
It’s pretty safe to say that scientific evidence shows that if you want to reduce your stress level, then exercise. With more active transportation opportunities becoming available in urban areas, commuters are starting to take to using their bikes to cycle to work instead of driving or taking public transportation. Why? First of all, it’s a cheaper way to commute and secondly, it can save you time. I’m all about saving people time so if you can find a way to strap on a pack with a change of clothes and hop on a bike, you are more likely getting more exercise than you would going to a gym, you’re saving money, and saving time but not sitting in traffic for hours. To begin your day with the stress of sitting in traffic and know that you are wasting valuable, isn’t good for the heart or the mind.
2. Nature, the Cheapest Form of Therapy
It can be argued that you can get a great high intensity workout on a bike indoors but you can also do this outdoors and with the added mental benefits that you just can’t get from an indoor workout. Green spaces such as parks, trail systems, and rural areas produce stress relieve abilities simply from just walking. The fresh air, the wildlife, and the silence allows you to mentally take a break from your daily routine to clear your mind. In fact, studies have shown that cycling outdoors in natural environments is associated with revitalization and positive awareness while decreasing emotions such as anger, confusion, depression, and tension.
If you’re looking to improve your energy level, take the bike outside and enjoy the benefits of what nature has to offer. Do you find that you live in area and that you’ve never explored it before? This is a great opportunity to take the family or bring a friend to explore and experience it by using your bike.
3. Boost Your Immune System
Besides cycling being good for your heart, waistline, muscles, and coordination, cycling outdoors can also boost your immune system. Getting sick is not just about germs, you can actually improve your immune system by active living and getting outside. Exposure to plants and trees that release natural ‘phytoncides’ in the air are inhaled which are proven to boost our immune system. The great outdoors also naturally boosts our serotonin levels in the brain otherwise known as the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter. If this isn’t enough, think about your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that can naturally absorbed by the sun into the skin. It is said that exposure to direct sunlight is known to affect your mood.
4. Take a Social Break
Do you or your children spend too much time on their hand held device or internet? In today’s world, we spend too much time in front of the screen whether it be TV or the computer. With the increase of childhood obesity and chronic disease on the rise in adults, it only seems natural to get outside and enjoy the nice weather to get some physical activity. More studies are being conducted on taking breaks more often during the day to increase our productivity level especially at work. Take your bike to work and hop on it at lunch hour for a quick 20-minute ride. You’d be surprised the amount of work you could get done post-ride to boost your job performance and or course, health.
Instead of scheduling movie night or watching your favourite TV show with your spouse, schedule a bike ride outside. You don’t need a sophisticated piece of equipment to ride on your local trail or in your park. I’ve been riding the same bike for the past 12 years. Sure, not all the gears work but it’s not about the bike, it’s about spending time with your spouse, friends, and family by getting active. Not only will you feel better, but you will sleep better by staying away from the screen prior to going to bed (studies have shown that spending hours in front of a screen before bed can affect our REM sleep). If you have children, think about the positive example you are providing them so that they can lead by example when they get older to stay active outdoors.
5. Easier on the Body
As much as I love to run, it can take a toll on your body, especially your knees. As I am currently going through yet another running injury, cycling is a great option while I’m recovering and it also makes a great option for cross-training. Cycling is lower impact and engages the muscles in the legs without putting too much force on the knees. You can still get your heart rate up without your joints taking a pounding. Also, being outside the wind drag can actually result in a greater energy demand, therefore expending more calories if you were to do the same distance on a bike indoors.
If you need help getting set up with your bike (especially if you don’t buy it from a bike store) than click on my previous blog, Get the Most Out of Your Indoor Cycling Workout to help you with your bike settings
Remember, buy a helmet, it could save your life!
There’s nothing better than being outdoors in the warm weather. I find cycling outdoors is not only a great way to keep my body in shape but I don’t feel like I’m on a time constraint when I’m outside. The time flies by and I actually burn more calories with the wind and the hills.
In the spring, summer, and fall when the weather is still good, I like to use my bike as much as I can. This means ditching the car to go the grocery store for those 3 or 4 items or riding my bike to the local farmer’s market. You are saving money but not putting gas in your car, you are making an impact on the environment but omitting greenhouse emissions, you are burning significant calories, and you are being rewarded with all the points that I made above in this blog post. How good do you feel now?
Eat clean & live green!
Your Compassionate Coach,