Home » Cycling is good for you: all the benefits of cycling for body and mind

Cycling is good for you: all the benefits of cycling for body and mind

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Cycling is good for you: all the benefits of cycling for body and mind

Cycling is the best way I know of to reach an altered state of consciousness, neither mystical nor enlightened, but certainly revitalized. A saddle ride is better than yoga, wine or weed; is tied with sex and coffee”. In his book The magic of two wheels. Stories and secrets of the bicycle around the world (Bollati Boringhieri) the American writer Jody Rosen describes the bicycle as a means to achieve nirvana, peace and absolute happiness. It is a sensation of physical and mental well-being that scientific literature has widely documented.

“Whether on a bike on the road or on a stationary bike at the gym or at home, pedaling can have tremendous health benefits,” he confirms Simona Ceruli, head of the Uosd-Simple Departmental Operational Units Physio Training Center of the Gemelli Polyclinic. “It is an activity with important cardiotonic, anaerobic, aerobic and above all humoral effects, provided that it is performed in safety”.

Cycling is good for your health, that’s why

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Cyclists are fitter than others

The most obvious effect is certainly the remise en forme, a goal that is among the most coveted at this time of year. A 2017 study on the British Medical Journal, revealed that people who ride bicycles are generally fitter than people who engage in other types of physical activity. And recent research by Imperial College London, conducted on 300,000 British commuters aged between 30 and 59, followed up for 25 years, revealed that those who mostly cycle to work have a risk of early death of about 20% lower than those who use the car. In particular, the possibility of having cardiovascular pathologies was 24% lower, while the probability of the onset of tumors was 22% lower. The beneficial effects would depend on the constancy of physical activity, which thus turns out to be the main factor of physical well-being and longevity.

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“Regular cycling can provide a number of benefits to the cardiovascular system,” she points out John Esposito, president of the Italian Society of Interventional Cardiology and director of the Cardiology-Hemodynamics Unit of the Federico II University Hospital of Naples. “Consistent exercise helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, myocardial infarction and stroke. It increases blood and oxygen flow to the muscles – he continues – and improves circulation. So yes it contributes to keep the blood cholesterol level under control, preventing or slowing down the formation of plaques in the arteries, and it helps to reduce stress and improve the quality of sleep”.

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Cycling prevents the formation of tumors

The two wheels keep away and at the same time help fight against cancer. “Cycling, if used regularly, is a great way to ensure the body benefits from the shield effect of physical activity on cancer risk,” he says Stephanie Goripresident of the Italian Association of Multidisciplinary Oncological Groups (Aigom) and director of the Irccs Negrar Oncology Department of Valpolicella.

“Cycling allows you to act on some essential mechanisms, such as energy and hormonal metabolism, inflammation and the immune system, helping both to prevent cancer and to defeat it in those who have already developed it”.

Cycling can also counteract the effects of aging and rejuvenate the immune system. A study in the journal Aging Cell has shown that cycling helps maintain muscle mass and strength, while keeping body fat and cholesterol levels stable. But surprisingly, the antiaging effects appear to extend to the immune system. An organ called the thymus, which produces T immune cells, normally begins to shrink by the age of 20. But it turned out that the thymus of older cyclists generates as many T cells as that of younger cyclists.

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New connections between cells in cortical areas of the brain

Although cycling is a physical activity, it is able to “feed” the gray matter. Pedaling would stimulate the growth of new connections between cells in the cortical areas of the brain: this is evidenced by a study by the University of California in Los Angeles and another has revealed the contribution to the regrowth of axons on damaged cells after a nerve crush injury. Further research has shown that cycling improves executive functions, from attention to planning.

Mental health also benefits, especially when you are on two wheels in the open air, especially in green areas. “The release of endorphins, chemicals produced by the brain, is stimulated, which generate a feeling of general well-being”, highlights Claudio Mencacci, director emeritus of Neuroscience at the Fabetebenefratelli in Milan and co-president of the Italian Society of Neuropsychopharmacology (Sinpf). “Cycling in nature can be considered a booster“.

Exercise bike as therapy

The exercise bike, for its part, is already widely used as a real therapy. “It’s one of the first tools we use with rehab patients,” he says Cerulli. “For low-impact exercises we can use the horizontal exercise bike, with the patient pedaling while lying down with his legs forward: it allows for better respiratory and cardiological compliance, for example after thoracic surgery. The upright exercise bike – he explains – on the other hand, it allows patients who have undergone lower limb surgery to regain the joint dynamics of the knee, ankle and hip”.

The list of beneficial effects of cycling is long, but like any other physical activity it can have risks and disadvantages. “If you don’t train well, you can run into problems such as pain in the hips and knees or muscle overload. Often – adds Cerulli – everything depends on mistakes in choosing the bike with respect to the route to be covered: I can’t use a “classic” to go over rough terrain, where vibration and poor grip can cause me to fall and cause trauma or lead to the development of elbow, neck or back ailments.

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Bad posture in the saddle – he specifies – can lead to wrong repetitive movements to compensate, creating more harm than good. Similarly, if you ride on the road, it doesn’t make sense to use a mountain bike that has a completely different setting than what you need. Saddle and handlebar must be set to facilitate pedaling according to the type of road. For this reason, it is essential to be guided by an expert when choosing a bike”.

Even clothing has its importance: the wrong shorts can cause more or less painful ailments. “It can cause rubbing damage to the groin and genitals with the possibility of redness or even inflammation.” But, in any case, we must not let ourselves be discouraged: “If cyclists imagine they are flying – comments Rosen in his book – it’s because, in a way, they really do.”

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