Whether you’re powering through an indoor cycling workout or riding through rocky terrain in the great outdoors, cycling can benefit your body from head to toe — and from muscles to mindset.
So, exactly what are the health benefits of cycling? Here’s some of what your time in the saddle can do for your body.
1. Builds Muscular Endurance
Pushing through a cycling workout can help you increase stamina — a.k.a. the ability to keep going even when your muscles are flat-out tired, explains Melanie Melillo, C.P.T..
2. Burns Fat
No surprise here — cycling is a great way to burn calories, which can help you create a calorie deficit for fat loss.
How many calories does cycling burn? That depends on a number of factors including your pace, intensity, resistance, duration, and body weight. A 155-pound person cycling at a moderate pace on a stationary bike, for example, can expect to burn around 252 calories in a 30-minute workout.
“The more you ride your bike, the better your cardiovascular fitness will be and the greater reduction in levels of body fat you will see,” says Todd Buckingham, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and world champion triathlete.
3. Builds Lower Body Strength and Muscle
Whether you’re adding resistance during an indoor cycling session or taking the hilly way home, cycling can help to improve muscular strength and endurance in your lower body, Buckingham says.
“The primary muscles that are active while biking are also the largest muscle groups in the legs: the glutes and quads,” Buckingham explains. “Other accessory muscles are active as well, including the hamstrings and calves.”
4. Engages Your Core
Cycling isn’t a targeted ab workout, but you’ll naturally engage your core to help maintain balance and stability on the bike — especially when you come up out of the saddle.
“Your core works hard to keep your body positioned correctly, balanced, and upright when you bike,” says Paul Johnson, founder of CompleteTri.
5. Spares Your Joints and Bones
Because cycling is a low-impact workout, it minimizes wear and tear on your joints.
“Low-impact exercises are ones that allow you to keep at least one foot connected to the ground or a surface at all times, allowing you to decrease the amount of body weight landing on your joints,” Melillo says.
This makes cycling “one of the best forms of exercise to start off with, especially if you’re not used to exercising regularly,” Buckingham says.
6. Helps Strengthen Your Heart
Like all forms of aerobic exercise, cycling increases your cardiovascular fitness.
“Your heart is a muscle just like the other muscles in your body. If you exercise your heart on a regular basis, it will become stronger,” Buckingham says.
7. Strengthens Your Lungs
According to the American Lung Association: “As your physical fitness improves, your body becomes more efficient at getting oxygen into the bloodstream and transporting it to the working muscles. That’s one of the reasons that you are less likely to become short of breath during exercise over time.”