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7 good reasons to start cycling

Cycling can be great for your body, mind and social life, but it can also be intimidating if you’re new to the sport. Paige N. Jones, III, ACSM CEP, EIM3, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center and avid cyclist, shares cycling’s health benefits and how to stay safe on the road.

7 health benefits of cycling

New to cycling? Here are seven reasons to give the sport a try:

  • Cycling is joint-friendly. “Cycling is a low-impact cardiovascular workout, which makes it friendly on the joints,” says Jones. 

  • It’s a two-for-one workout. “If you're on the right type of hill, it’s both an aerobic and strength workout all in one,” he says.

  • It helps you age well. Riding can help you maintain balance, coordination, core stability and mental alertness as you age.  

  • Cycling is excellent for cross-training. If you’re a runner or weightlifter, cycling can help you work different muscle groups, give your joints a break from high-impact activity and improve your cardiovascular fitness.

  • It allows you to cover greater distances. “Cycling allows us to go farther and see more of the great outdoors than we would walking or running,” says Jones. “A 12-mile bike ride offers a bigger variety of scenery versus a 5k run.”

  • Cycling mixes up your mode of transportation. “We tend to drive everywhere, even very short distances,” he says. “If an area is bike-friendly, it offers residents a great option to enjoy the outdoors, benefit their health and help the environment.”

  • It can be a social sport. Meet up with a friend for a ride instead of getting coffee or join a cycling group (more below).

Cycling safety tips

If you’re new to cycling, familiar yourself with these safety tips before hitting the road:

  • Wear a helmet. “It may not seem cool, but neither is a concussion,” says Jones.

  • Wear reflective, colorful clothing and shoes. No matter the time of day, you want to wear reflective gear in bright colors to help motorists see you.

  • Make sure your bike is sized properly. If your bike frame is too large or too small, you could set yourself up for a crash or injury. Visit a cycling shop for help choosing the right bike. 

  • Plan your route before you go. Select routes that minimize your exposure to traffic. 

  • Ride safely at night. Avoid riding at night, but if you must, it’s critical that you place flashing lights on your bike and/or yourself.

  • Increase mileage as tolerated. “If you prefer to ride fast, keep your mileage low initially and bump it up as your fitness level improves,” he says.

  • Make your longer rides more comfortable. “If you want to be the tortoise and not the hare, it’s a good idea to wear padded biking shorts for increased comfort,” he suggests.

  • Join a riding group. “The group dynamic will reduce boredom, increase safety and minimize the perceived difficulty level of the ride,” says Jones. “There’s strength in numbers. Ten cyclists commandeering a lane is bound the catch the attention of motorists better than a solo rider. Also, drivers tend to be more courteous to group rides versus individuals.”

Check out more fitness tips from Living Better experts.