Everybody is too busy. Too anxious. Most of us are struggling to fit in a fitness routine that’s effective without taking away time from the rest of our lives and our family. We’re concerned about the environment and wondering if we’re doing enough, or if what we’re doing is really making a difference. Many of us are facing illness and injury—and recovering to try and get our bodies back to normal, or better. Everyone would love to find a magic bullet: that one little change that will make us stress less, feel better, give us more hours in the day, and help us be fit inside and out. Well, it turns out there’s no wizardry required to have it all. Just take up bike riding.
May is National Bike Month, the month when we celebrate biking in all its glory. And the most wonderful thing about the bicycle is what it can do to improve your life. It doesn’t matter how you ride a bike. Just pushing those pedals a couple hours a week can slash your risk for heart disease in half, relax your mind, and tone your body. Regular biking has even been correlated with extending your life by as much as 8 years! So let’s count them up.
1.5 Years: Be Active
According to the Framingham Heart Study, biking about 30 minutes (roughly six miles) five times a week can add about 1.5 years to your life. That moderate amount of biking was also proven by the British Medical Association to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 50% percent. Just think where you can get in six miles! To work and back? To the grocery store? To your best friend’s house? When you use your bike to get where you’re going, you also save time by rolling your workout and commute into one, which brings us to life-saver No. 2…
4 Years: Stress Less
In a 2014 article for BikeRadar, Neil Shah of the Stress Management Society reported that, “cycling is one of the most effective treatments for stress and in many cases has been proven to be as effective as medication—if not more so.” A nonprescription cure for stress? Yes, please! Cycling has been proven to improve tolerance to stress and help you sleep better, which makes you even more resilient. Bike more to stress less and add up to 4 more healthy, blissful years.
1 Year: Lower Your Pollutant Exposure
Biking to commute saves the world about 1 pound of pollutants per mile that a car would ordinarily sputter out. Moreover, by biking you’re reducing your exposure to air pollution, compared with those in a car or on a bus. A report published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that by reducing exposure to air pollution via riding a bike, you can tack an extra 3 to 14 months on to your life.
1 Year: Build Muscle Mass
Biking is a great way to improve muscle tone without little-to-no impact on your joints. Researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine found that muscle mass was more important than weight or BMI in terms of life expectancy. Elderly study participants with more muscle mass had a 20 percent lower likelihood of dying during the study’s five-year evaluation period than their overweight or underweight peers with less muscle mass. Take a break from the number on the scale and build up your brawn with sprints or hills on the bike.
OK, so maybe bicycles are a little magical after all. Happy trails and Happy National Bike Month to you!
By Tina Schmidt