Our spring intern, Charlie from Butler University, takes a deeper dive into the endless benefits the bicycle offers…
It’s no secret that cardio has made a name for itself as one of the most disliked forms of exercise. In the world of cardiovascular fitness, there seems to be an endless amount of exercises that haunt the dreams of the average person: grueling sprint exercises, exhausting HIIT workouts, ceaselessly swimming laps in a pool, and so many more. As I find myself dreading that foreboding treadmill run over and over each time I’m at the gym, I can’t help but wonder if there is any other way to get the exercise I need without resenting every second of it.
Thankfully, there is a solution to this loathing of cardio. Biking combines both the exercise I need and the fun that I want from my workouts. Rather than dreading monotonous and difficult cardio workouts, I find myself excited and energized to explore new places and get a high quality workout in simultaneously. While it seems like a better option at face value, I find myself asking “just how healthy is biking anyway”, and “is biking even the most fun cardio exercise out there?”
A Valuable Workout for Both the Body and Mind
While a majority of exercises focus on a single part of the body, biking is a dynamic exercise that benefits the entire body. To point out the obvious, biking is a very valuable exercise for cardiovascular health. Riding a bike has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, as each pedal stroke stimulates the heart and lungs, increasing overall blood circulation. Biking strengthens the heart muscles, lowers resting pulse, and reduces blood fat levels, which leads to a much healthier heart, lungs, body, and mind. To add onto the health benefits, riding a bike utilizes major muscle groups in our lower body, back, core, and arms, which burns calories and initiates muscle growth.
While other forms of cardio exercise put a substantial amount of strain on the joints, riding a bike is gentle on the back, ankles, knees, and hips. This allows for a phenomenal workout, while also greatly reducing the risk of serious injury. That being said, biking can be used as both a tool for pushing my body’s limits, or it can be used as a tool for helping my body to recover. For example, a low-intensity biking workout can be useful for people that are recovering from an injury, while someone who is completely healthy can use biking as a high-intensity workout to build their strength and endurance.
Finally, biking can be also very beneficial to my mental health. Being outside and exploring new places allows me to stimulate my mind in a healthy way. Biking also lets me be around my peers when I am out exploring, letting me interact with others while I am completing my biking workout. Finally, biking creates and releases endorphins throughout the body, which helps to reduce my levels of stress and pain. All in all, biking is not only a great way to stay in shape physically, but it allows me to keep my mental health in check as well.
The bicycle is a phenomenal health tool for both the body and the mind, which is what is taught through Nine13sports’ Kids Riding Bike program. Students get to learn about the health benefits of riding a bike all while stimulating their minds and having a blast in the process!
Constant Exploration and Adventure
Even if I decided to ignore all of the health benefits, there is no denying that biking offers an important benefit that other exercises don’t: the ability to explore new places. Now I know what you may be thinking, “running outside lets us do that too”. While this may be true, running puts way more stress on the body and I always find myself becoming tired more quickly when compared to biking, which unfortunately cuts my adventures short. To put this into perspective, a beginner runner averages around 2-4 miles per run, while the average biker can bike around 10-12 miles per ride.
When riding a bike, I have the ability to travel much quicker and at longer distances, allowing me to explore much further than I would be able to when running. Many cities have infrastructure in place that take bikers on an adventure throughout the area. According to Trail Link, the Indianapolis area has roughly 235 miles of bike trails that take a rider to many parts of the city.
To accompany the extensive network of trails, some places will have programs that take riders on guided adventures in their respective cities. For example, here in Indianapolis there is an organization called ActiveIndy Tours, which allows a rider to go on bicycle tours throughout Indianapolis and stop at historic locations to learn more about the history of the city (be sure to check it out!) With so many places to explore, biking is the perfect way to capitalize on an activity that is both healthy and fun.
Finally, biking gives me the opportunity to reconnect with nature. It is easy to get caught up in the various screens of smartphones and computers that have taken over our lives. Biking gives me a fun and essentially free way to escape from my screens and get back into nature. With so many different types of bikes, the possibilities of where bikes can take us is endless. There are bikes made for every terrain: mountains, beaches, roads, trails, and so many more. Given the variety of bike types, there are options out there for all of us that will let us go where we want to go and see what we want to see.
Friendships and Fun
One of the beautiful things about biking is that no matter what age you are, it is a relatively easy way for you to have fun and meet new people and to build deeper connections with people you already know.
Biking takes me back to the time before I got my driver’s license, where it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend my summers exploring the trails of my hometown with my best friends. My friends and I would take trails to new towns, try new restaurants, and meet new people. There is something liberating about getting on your bike and just going, especially if you are with friends.
Riding bikes is a great way for people to become closer to one another. At Nine13sports, one of the activities we love doing most is taking a break from our busy schedules to ride our bikes on the Central Canal Towpath next to our office into Broad Ripple. Not only do we get to put a pause on our busy lives, we also get to strengthen the friendships that we have with each other.
From hanging out with friends during a hot summer’s day, to work colleagues taking a break to enjoy some time out of the office, the fun that biking can bring is endless. Biking is the ultimate, relatively painless way for people to make memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. How many other exercises let you do that?
At Nine13sports, we have made it our mission to show the community just how awesome biking is for both exercise and fun. Working with bikes allows us to do what we love in the city we love, with the people we love even more. Now that you know the possibilities that biking offers, I’d love to hear your favorite bike memories and stories. I hope to see you on the trails soon!