We all want to exercise more efficiently. Sometimes it’s not about the joy of riding; it’s about maximising our results whilst minimising the time we spend doing it. But can we expect to reap the health benefits of cycling from just 15 to 20 minutes exercise a day?
Is 15 minutes of cycling a day enough?
Any exercise is better than no exercise at all. Remembering that is important when someone is new to cycling. It’s easy to be overwhelmed at the amount of information and advice available.
And enough is relative. It depends on the person who’s exercising, the type of exercise they’re doing, and the intensity they’re doing it at. Weight, age, and health all play a role, too.
The NHS and CDC both recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week or 75 minutes of intensive exercise.
If we break that down into daily amounts that’s 21 minutes of moderate activity each day or 10 minutes of intensive exercise.
Moderate cycling would be a gentler ride with enough effort to raise the heartrate. Intensive cycling could be taking a class or a more challenging outdoor ride. You could also ensure you’re maximising your time by incorporating high intensity interval training (HIIT) into your routine. These short bursts of intense exercise maximise your results by allowing you to go all-out in a shorter session rather than stringing out a longer workout at a slower pace.
Is cycling everyday good or bad?
There’s no hard or fast rule here, either.
If you’re working out intensively, build in a rest day or switch to something like swimming, walking or yoga. You might also try strength training. Some cyclists choose to complete slower rides to break up their training or to enjoy a more scenic route. It will depend on the speed and intensity of your riding. Rest days should be built into any vigorous training plan to help the body recover. This won’t be necessary for everyone, however. If you’re riding at a lower intensity or a gentler pace, then 15-minutes each day is unlikely to cause you any issues.
For indoor cyclists, cycling everyday can be tough on the knees if your bike isn’t set-up correctly. Beginners often complain that indoor bike seats aren’t comfortable so take time to ensure your bike has been adjusted to your height. Taking a break every few days from stationary bike riding can be beneficial when you’re just getting started. We wouldn’t recommend taking a class 7-days a week.
5 Health Benefits of Cycling 15 to 20 Minutes a Day
You may already be familiar with the more general health benefits of exercising for 15 minutes each day, but we want to look at cycling specifically.
Cycling Boosts Heart Health
Cycling is a great cardiovascular choice for anyone who doesn’t want to go running. It’s both high-intensity and low-impact, so it’s suitable both as a HIT workout and for more moderate sessions. Several studies suggest that cycling for 15 to 20 minutes each day can be beneficial for heart health.
One study compared two groups using an indoor bike. Group one did a two-minute warm-up, a 20-second sprint, and then a slower two-minute ride and repeated it for 10-minutes. Group two rode steadily for 45-minutes. After 12-weeks, both groups had a 20% increase in cardiovascular endurance. The study showed that shorter intense bursts of exercise can offer the same heart health benefits as a longer workout.
Similarly, Science Daily wrote about one study that found HIIT workouts improved cardiorespiratory fitness almost twice as much as a longer stretch of moderate-intensity running or cycling.
A 15-minute workout can be more beneficial than a 45-minute one at a slower pace. It’s good news for anyone struggling to fit longer gym or cycling sessions into their day.
Classes are a good example of this. Riders go hard because they want a more intense workout in a shorter session.
Intensity plays a key role in maximising the benefits of cycling for shorter periods. Vigorous doesn’t have to mean going all-out but you should push yourself if you’re able to. All exercise has health benefits but according to one study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week can also decrease your risk of getting cancer or cardiovascular disease. That’s just 12.5 minutes a day.
Another study found that 15-minutes of exercise each day increased life expectancy by 3-years.
Biking for Better Brain Health
Cycling and cardio have a clear connection but you may not know that cycling, even for short durations, is good for the brain, too.
In fact, cycling for just 15-minutes can improve your memory. Bicycling.com reports on one study that showed how cycling can improve the memory of older participants so much so that it’s been put forward as a key way to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
It makes sense. When we pedal (whether indoors or outdoors) we increase the amount of blood flowing through the body and, importantly, to the brain. According to the Duvine website, this builds a bigger and more connected brain by increasing white matter, nerve cells, neurons, and stimulating those sections of the brain that help us form memories.
Cyclists Sleep Better
Sleep is so important for our general health. It’s not just the amount of time that we’re in bed, but the quality of that sleep. Poor sleep has been attributed to a wide range of health issues including dementia, heart disease, obesity and depression. Sleep helps control our hormone levels. We’re more stressed when we haven’t had enough of it. We eat more. We become irritable. Cortisol is released when we’re not sleeping properly, and that’s the stress hormone which makes it harder for us to have healing sleep. It can become a vicious circle.
Bike Radar reported on one study by Stanford University where insomnia sufferers who lived inactive lives were asked to take up cycling. After the experiment concluded, the insomniacs found it took them half the time to fall asleep and that they spent an extra hour asleep each night.
Indoor cyclists can benefit from a HIIT session of 15-minutes to improve sleep. One Australian study found that having completed 8-weeks of HIIT, women improved their sleep by 23%.
Cycling to Live Longer
We know that exercise plays a key role in keeping us healthy, but some of the important messaging can get lost in the noise. There are so many statistics and health claims for specific diseases or illnesses that it can be harder to see some of the most striking facts close-up.
One of these is that cycling for 15-minutes a day can add 3-years onto your life.
If there was a pill that could do that, wouldn’t we all be taking it?
One study in the European Journal of Cardiology looked at participants over a 12-year period and found that even those doing only a brisk walk of 15-minutes were 22% less likely to die during the course of the study than those who did no exercise.
You can apply the same logic to a 15-minute bike ride or a 15-minute session on an indoor bike. What’s interesting about this study is that the results aren’t only applicable to vigorous exercise. The study wasn’t based on a HIIT workout but a brisk walk. Slow and steady on a bike works, too.
A recent study in the British Medical Journal found that people who spend between 8 and 10-hours sitting in front of the television could mitigate some of the biggest health risks of that lifestyle by exercising at a moderate to vigorous pace for 11-minutes a day.
Most of us have 11-minutes a day to exercise. Making exercise more efficient is one of the reasons we developed the RE:GEN bike with its AI to help riders build better workouts for the time they have available or for the calorie burn they need.
There’s no reason why you can’t also apply the 11-minutes a day rule to other activities you enjoy: running, walking, gardening, Zumba, fencing…
Cycling for Weight Management
Cycling is a good way to manage weight. It’s not always about fitting into that bikini or getting into those new swim shorts. Staying within a healthy weight range means you can still enjoy the finer things in life whilst supporting better health.
Cycling and indoor cycling classes provide a means of calorie and fat burning that can make it easier to stay at a healthy weight – whatever that means for you.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, someone who’s around 155 pounds can expect to burn around 173 calories during a 20-minute moderately intense session.
173 calories is a good start. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll benefit more by adding a couple of longer cycling sessions to your routine. Classes are a good choice, too, to maximise calorie burn. Adding other forms of exercise like swimming, walking or aerobics for example will help, too.
Cycling for 15 to 20 minutes per day has some important health benefits. The effort and intensity of your cycling will dictate how far these benefits go, but even 15-minutes of gentle exercise is beneficial for overall health. Starting small can also help you engage more consistently with a fitness routine which you can then grow into longer sessions.
15-minutes could be riding to the shop and back. It could be jumping on your stationary bike during your favourite TV show. No matter where you are on your fitness journey, remember that any exercise is better than none.
If you’re new to exercise or if you have pre-existing conditions, ask your doctor for advice before starting.