Have you ever wondered exactly what physical benefits you gain by riding your bicycle? Both the mental and physical aspects of cycling can be tremendously advantageous for your health. Inspired by “This is Your Body on Cycling” and “What happens during one hour of riding your bicycle,” we’re going to take a look at how exactly this sport affects your being.
Pre-Cycling and Endorphins
According to bicycling.com, you begin to experience positive benefits of cycling even before hopping into the saddle of a bike. Emotional regulators pick up on the feelings you experience upon first looking at your bike before your ride. Your brain cells will activate the happy memories of previous bicycle rides and trigger an affirmative reaction in your system.
Even if you’ve experienced distressing moments on a cycling ride in the past due to a severe incline or burning muscles, the art of bicycle riding actually creates painkilling chemicals. These incredible chemicals are called endorphins which are technically defined as:
any of a group of peptides occurring in the brain and other tissues of vertebrates, and resembling opiates, that react with the brain’s opiate receptors to raise the pain threshold.
Your body learns to crave these endorphins. This, therefore, eventually leads you to continue craving your bicycle.
The First 5 Minutes
The first five minutes of a bicycle ride would, on the surface, perhaps seem ineffective. Your body’s just getting going as it warms up and gets into the motions of cycling. How can anything positive be happening?
In fact, the favorable impacts of cycling begin as soon as you start to pedal. As soon as you do, the brain quickly enters into fight-or-flight mode. It understands that your body is suddenly working very hard and biologically registers your response as trying to escape a predator. Therefore, blood is automatically pumped to the major organs to help you go as fast as possible during your exercise.
This is one reason why warming up is so important. Since your body is entering into this fight-or-flight mode, you will rapidly burn out if you don’t ease into your bicycle ride. Make sure and take the first 5 minutes of your journey easily and slowly to prevent tiring.
Once your brain and body understand that it’s time to take physical initiative and move, you’ll feel excited and happy and ready to face the task of your impending ride.
The Heart of the Ride
After you’ve warmed up, you’re now into the heart of the ride. This may mean that you have to climb hills, cruise down hills, take a sharp corner, or cruise. Whatever your cycling adventure may bring, your body is working hard and doing mind-blowing things all throughout.
As you ride, your muscles recruit fast-twitch muscles to do their part to produce more power. As more power is exerted the longer you cycle, the blood pumped out to your body with each heartbeat increases. This then strengthens your heart and the muscles that are doing all of the hard work. Additionally, your core is strengthened as you climb hills and need to stabilize. As your core muscles (abdominal muscles, obliques, and back) get stronger, you’ll be able to use more of your leg muscles to power your rides and cycle more efficiently.
That’s what’s happening on the physical side of things. In terms of the mental benefits, cortisol (the stress hormone that can prevent deep sleep) is being dramatically reduced. In other words, the more you ride, the more your system triggers the release of anxiety.
As you continue your ride and reach the 45 minute mark, something else happens: serotonin is now being released into the bloodstream. According to Medical News Today,
serotonin is a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the human body. It is sometimes called the happy chemical, because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness.
Because of this mood boost, you have more impetus to keep riding even if your muscles are getting tired. You’ll likely finish your ride with a smile on your face because of your positive state of mind despite the aching.
Your Body After Cycling
After you’ve arrived home and have dismounted your bicycle, you’ll most likely feel blissful. This is because the brain continues to produce chemicals that block feelings of discomfort as your muscles work to carry you through your ride. Even though your ride is complete, your brain pumps out the happy chemicals that make you feel euphoric. This is sometimes referred to as a cyclist’s high.
Physically, you’ll most likely feel hungry after your trip. Be sure and fuel with lots of protein and carbs to replenish your system so that your muscles can get what they need to rebuild.
When you go to sleep, chances are you’ll crash. Your body needs to rest to recover. This means that you’ll experience a deep and full night’s rest.
After you awaken, your body might be a bit sore if you’re not used to riding. However, if you cycle smart and gradually increase the difficulty of your rides, the recovery time will be minimal. Soon enough, you’ll experience that craving for the endorphins that your body released on its last ride and you’ll be back on the road in no time.
Thank you so much for tuning into another Barton Haynes blog post! Best of luck to you all and happy cycling.