Cycling offers many physical and mental health benefits, but what about any specific benefits for ladies? We’re going to list those that are female-specific and then list those more general benefits that apply to both men and women.
Cycling Benefits for Ladies
Good for joints
Women are more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis. In the United States, 60% of those living with the condition are female. Cycling can help ‘ease arthritis symptoms’, according to the Arthritis Foundation. The Journal of Rheumatology also reported that cycling reduced joint pain and improved muscle strength in older adults with osteoarthritis. Royal Bournemouth Hospital in the UK ran a trial a few years back where patients spent 30 minutes daily on either an indoor or outdoor bike. Doctors there believe regular exercise, like cycling, ‘could stop muscle wastage and delay or prevent the onset of arthritis’. One significant advantage of cycling is that it doesn’t put too much pressure on the joints, unlike other high-intensity activities like running. Cycling also benefits men’s joints, but given that women are more likely to suffer from arthritis, it’s pertinent to point it out as a female-specific benefit.
It may help reduce the chance of breast cancer
We’ve mentioned before how cycling is a high-intensity but low-impact activity. It’s also beginner-friendly as most people learn to ride a bike as a child or can learn fairly quickly as adults. Beginners can start gently and work their way up as they gain fitness, making it accessible to almost everyone and to women who want to exercise to reduce the risk of developing certain illnesses. According to cancer.org, exercise lowers the levels of sex hormones in the body associated with ‘cancer development and progression’, including breast cancer. According to Liv-cycling, at least 23% of breast cancer cases in the UK could be ‘preventable through making lifestyle changes’.
Mental health benefits
Cycling UK writes that women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with anxiety. There are several reasons why this is believed to be the case. It could be down to differences in hormones or how differently men and women deal with stress.
An interesting account was written in the Guardian by Charles Graham-Dixon about how cycling helped put him ‘on the road to happiness’ when he was anxious and depressed. The writer says that cycling helps clear the mind and keep in the present. Cycling causes the body to release endorphins, commonly called ‘the feel-good hormone’, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety.
Cycling and your period
Cycling can help reduce the pain of stomach cramps during a person’s period. One study conducted at the Mashhad University in Iran concluded that ‘aerobic exercise [which would include cycling] can improve primary dysmenorrhea’, which is the medical term for period pain that isn’t connected to any other health condition. Cycling can help reduce period pain because it releases beta-endorphins which the Ogden Clinic calls ‘human morphine’.
Cycling while pregnant
Bike Radar writes that many women find cycling more comfortable than walking when they’re pregnant. Some women will ride right up until their due date, but other women may not want to or feel like riding. Indoor cycling is considered safer than outdoor cycling during pregnancy, but it’s always a good idea to check with a medical professional first. The website siroko.com lists some of the benefits of cycling during pregnancy, including a lower risk of gestational diabetes, prevention of fluid retention, reduced aches, pains and nausea, better sleep and mood, and blood pressure regulation.
Cycling can impact body shape, and some women are concerned that they’ll develop large muscles from exercising, making them look masculine. Women have around 20% less testosterone than men and more body fat, meaning it takes longer and more effort for a woman to see changes in her body shape. Female recreational and indoor riders may notice that they become leaner. Women with large muscles will have supplemented cycling with a strength training routine and probably an intense diet.
General benefits of cycling
Better Heart Health
We’ve discussed what’s specific to women, but cycling has more comprehensive benefits that apply to everyone. It’s why it’s such a popular activity outdoors on roads and trails as well as inside at a track, cycling studio or gym.
One of the most significant advantages of cycling is that it boosts cardiovascular fitness by helping lower blood pressure, strengthen heart health and improve circulation. The heart is a muscle, and like any other muscle in the body, there can be significant benefits to improving it. Cycling can also help decrease the risk of a stroke or heart attack. According to Cyclist.co.uk, one study by the British Medical Association found that cycling 20 miles a week could reduce your risk of developing heart disease by 50%.
Cycling makes the heart pump faster, increasing blood flow throughout the body, allowing oxygen to circulate more quickly, and then permeating skill cells with nutrients. Skin that’s nourished looks and feels healthier. Cardiovascular exercise also helps remove waste products more quickly, protecting the skin from free-radical damage and could help slow the signs of ageing. Of course, if you’re cycling outdoors, remember to apply sun protection because studies seem to suggest that skin damage caused by UV can’t be reversed. We’ve written an article about the benefits of cycling for the skin.
Cycling for weight loss and maintenance
Cycling can cause significant calorie burn. Harvard Health says modern indoor cycling burns between 210 and 294 calories in 30 minutes. It’s high-intensity but low-impact, meaning it’s a more realistic physical activity for many people than running or rowing. Whatever a healthy weight means to you, cycling can help with weight loss or weight maintenance both at home and at the gym.
Cycling for creativity and focus
If you’re familiar with our blog, you’ll know we’re big advocates for exercise in the workplace (for those who want to). Exercise has been shown in several key studies to help boost focus, reduce stress and increase creativity. Researchers at Stanford University and the University Côte d’Azur believe that cycling is one of the best exercises for creativity. It’s a fascinating insight, but the benefit of cycling over other cardiovascular exercises is that cycling can ‘last for many hours’ and, unlike running, for example, ‘doesn’t repeatedly shock the body.’ It’s repetitive enough that your ‘conscious mind relaxes and your thoughts are free to explore uncharted territory.’
Unsurprisingly, cycling is excellent for strengthening the leg muscles, but outdoor cyclists may also find that it impacts their triceps, biceps and deltoids. Riding outside means using core stabilising muscles, especially over rugged terrain.
Cycling offers a wide variety of benefits to women (and men). The fact that it’s a physical activity that can be done indoors or outdoors makes it accessible to more people. If you’re concerned about riding on roads or outside, start an indoor practice in an instructor-led class or at a gym or even buy a stationary bike for your home.
You can even pre-order an electricity-generating indoor bike now too. The RE:GEN captures the power you generate during a workout and converts it into clean electricity.