Photo by Clem Onojeghuo

Children are encouraged to be outside and ride bicycles to move their bodies and breathe in the fresh air. Doctors tell us to ride our bikes to avoid various health problems and diseases. 

Riding a bike is one of those things that seem to fit many bills: health, entertainment, and transport. However, cycling is much more than just a toy or a fun way to travel. It can become a useful routine that can ultimately change your life.

Many of the health benefits that cycling brings, including improved heart and weight loss, are well known. 

Besides the well-known physical benefits, cycling has been scientifically proven to benefit those who suffer from emotional and mental problems. In some cases, patients have seen better results when cycling than during psychotherapy sessions. 

What you may not know, however, is that actual cycling activity can do much more for our body than we have ever thought. 

The interesting reality is that just a few hours of pedaling per week can have a profound positive effect on your body’s immune system and life expectancy.

What Research Suggests

Recent research into cycling provides all kinds of fascinating information. All the results point to similar things: people who ride a bike tend to be in better health and tend to age in healthier and more elegant ways. 

Just 30 minutes on a bike a day can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on your immune system. And while this news pleased the medical community many years ago, it is worth repeating.

Cycling For A Longer Life 

A study published in the International Sports Journal in 2011 confirmed the suspicion that cycling can increase life expectancy. 

It also showed that a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise might not be enough to prevent unhealthy weight gain. In the selection of the study participants, an elite group of endurance athletes was mentioned: Tour de France cyclists.

A total of 1,219 cyclists from all over the world were included in the study. A set of specific requirements were defined. The dates of birth and death of the cyclists were compared with those of others. The study concluded that the life expectancy of cyclists is much longer. Riders lived 81.5 years compared to 73.5 years in the general population – a 17% increase.

It’s never too late to start to make changes that can improve your quality of life, especially if those changes can extend your life. You can find the best bicycle for seniors, which will suit your needs.

You don’t have to enter the Tour de France to see the benefits of cycling. However, you should be consistent. You can start to feel and see the benefits of consistent cycling in just a month or two.

Better Health At A Cellular Level

Reducing your stress levels is an excellent way to improve the immune system, and cycling does just that. It was recently discovered that the effect of cycling could be traced back to the cellular level. 

A small study in the UK has shown that cycling can affect the body in a surprisingly cellular way. The researchers decided to study the T-cells of their participants. These gland cells help fight infections. They help to determine the number of cells and other related data. A blood test is needed.

Among, the study participants were 125 bicyclists aged 55 to 79 years. After the physical tests and blood tests of the participants were completed, the T-cell count of the participants was compared with two other groups:

  • Adults of their age who haven’t been exercising regularly
  • Adults between ages 20 and 36 years old.

The comparisons have produced interesting results:

  • Cyclists’ T-cell count levels were the same as that of an adult in their 20’s
  • Body fat of the older cyclists was as low as that of a young adult in their 20’s
  • Cyclists’ immune systems were operating similar to when they were in their 20’s

Researchers also found that the glands of the cycling thymus were unusual. The thymus glands tend to contract with age, but in endurance cyclists, they do not change in size. It matched the size of the thymus found in someone in their 20s. 

It would explain why the T-cell count of athletes was so high and why their bodies still function in adults in their 20s! 

The study’s author, Professor Janet Lord, told the BBC: “The immune system is decreasing by about 2-3 percent per year compared to our 20s, so older people are more susceptible to infections, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer. 

Because cyclists have an immune system similar to their 20s, they tend to have added protection against problems.

Riding A Bicycle To Reduce Stress Levels

Corticosteroid, a hormone released under stress, can inhibit the effectiveness of the immune system. It means that stress has a strong potential to weaken the immune system. It is essential to know because a recently published study in Lancet: Psychiatry suggests that cycling can be one of the most commonly used forms of stress relief exercise.

The study includes data from more than one million participants who live in the United States. The Centers provided the data for Disease Control and Prevention and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Surveys in 2011, 2013, and 2015. 

The research team aimed to determine the relationship between physical activity and mental health. It was found that cycling was the most popular stress-relieving exercise, ranking first among all aerobic and sports activities. 

They also found that, given the list of different activities, cycling was the second most popular stress exercise, after team sports by only 0.7 percent!

Therefore, if you find that you often get sicker as a result of your immune system weakening from stress, jumping onto the saddle of your bike might be a good idea. 

While competitors who exercise most often report training periods of 45 minutes and a frequency of three to five times a week, it is acceptable to start with a shorter duration of just a few times a week, especially if you don’t currently have any fitness activities. 

A ten-minute bike ride in your surrounding area is a great way to start a new riding habit, and you may find that you are feeling less stressed and less likely to be overworked.

Riding A Bicycle For HIIT Exercise

Different types of exercise affect the body differently. Some exercises are more effective in forming bulky muscles, which bodybuilders work so hard on, while others lead to longer, slimmer muscles. 

One study shows that high-intensity aerobic interval (HIIT) training goes one step further and provides benefits in the fight against aging. HIIT includes rapid bursts of high-intensity activity, alternating with recovery periods of less intense activity.

A study published in Cell Metabolism concluded that HIIT exercises, such as cycling, can impact aging at the cellular level. The study included two age groups: one group of people aged 18 to 30 years and the other 65 to 80 years. 

Participants were given one of three types of HIIT exercises and were expected to do their assigned exercises for three months. The impact of HIIT on aging was determined by collecting and analyzing muscle biopsies performed before and after the three-month exercise plan.

The results of the muscle biopsy showed that HIIT exercises, such as cycling, can affect aging at the cellular level by increasing mitochondrial muscle activity. “Only HIIT and combined exercise have improved aerobic activity and musculoskeletal mitochondrial breathing.” 

Mitochondria are usually called “power plants” of cells because they produce and quickly distribute much-needed energy. 

The fact that HIIT improves mitochondrial activity is essential because it means that the body produces energy and recovers more efficiently.

To Sum Up

All this means is that you should be riding a bicycle. More precisely, the chances that you will have a healthier immune system, live a long life, and be much healthier throughout your life are much higher than your peers who do not ride a bike. 

By simply adding a few bike rides to your week, you may find that your life expectancy is not the only improvement. Your overall quality of life may eventually reach new heights!