12 Key Benefits of Cycling to Boost Your Brain, Body, and Soul

Robbie Ferri takes a look at the multitude of mental and physical health benefits of cycling

Photo of author
Written by
reviewed by Rory McAllister

In the constant whirlwind of modern life, finding a holistic approach to taking care of your physical and mental well-being is crucial.

Enter cycling – a dynamic and invigorating sport that provides so much more than simply physical activity and a form of exercise.

I was a relative latecomer to cycling, only getting into the sport around a decade ago when I was in my twenties, but I was an immediate convert to the physical and mental health benefits of cycling.

It started as a nice escape from day-to-day life, and quickly became a hobby I never knew I needed.

Ten years later, I’ve competed in ultra-cycling races around the world, (briefly) held a cycling world record, and now get to write about bikes for a living.

Fair to say, cycling changed my life!

Don’t just take my word for it though – there are a ton of benefits of cycling backed up by expert advice, and the experience of thousands of other cyclists like me. From cardiovascular fitness to mental clarity, cycling has been proven to be a huge bonus for overall well-being.

Read on to find out more about how cycling benefits the brain, body, and soul!

A photo of me during a ride I took as a mental health break, showing one of the benefits of cycling
Here I am on a winter ride on my gravel bike! © Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

How Cycling Benefits The Brain

Let’s start with the brain. Cycling has a huge amount of benefits to help you mentally. Here are our top brain benefits of cycling. 

#1. Cycling Aids Stress Reduction

Cycling is amazing when it comes to relieving stress.

Very few people come back from a ride more stressed than when they left. Hitting those pedals is a great way to release pent-up energy, giving you time to relax and focus on one thing.

This happens because when you participate in an activity such as cycling, your body releases endorphins. These endorphins make you feel happy, help reduce stress and anxiety, and are good for helping to stop depression.

I can absolutely vouch for this mental health benefit of cycling from personal experience. If I’m feeling overwhelmed by an issue in my personal or professional life, going for a ride helps me regain perspective and see the situation with so much more clarity.

#2. Cycling Enhances Brain Function

Many studies have been done to research the effects of regular cycling on brain function, and there’s no surprise that the results are fantastic.1Leyland, L.-A., Spencer, B., Beale, N., Jones, T., & van Reekum, C. M. (2019). The effect of cycling on cognitive function and well-being in older adults. PLOS ONE14(2), e0211779. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0211779

Studies have shown that cycling can improve cognitive function, problem-solving skills, and memory. The effects are even better when it comes to people later in life, and it can help prevent neurological diseases.

There’s a reason why people who commute to work are firing on all cylinders immediately when they get through the office door. It’s the bike ride they get to have on the way in!

#3. Cycling Aids Overall Mental Health Benefits

Cycling is an invaluable tool to boost your overall mental health.

As we discussed before, it releases endorphins to reduce stress, but they do much more than that. They make your overall mood happier and more confident, leading to a more positive self-image.

Another great mental health boost for many is the goal-setting process. Setting a goal within your cycling and achieving it has been known to inspire positive thought and give the confidence to achieve further.

The process of training for an event and completing it is great because it gives you something to focus on, and once achieved, you have a great sense of self-worth and a big mental boost, helping you progress further.

Me at the finish line of the BikingMan Oman race - a major cycling goal I had set myself!
Me at the finish line of the BikingMan Oman race – a major cycling goal I had set myself! © Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

How Cycling Benefits The Body

The physical health boosts are arguably the greatest of all the benefits of cycling. Here’s what experts argue are some of the key factors:

#4. Cycling Boosts Your Cardiovascular Health

The cardiovascular system processes the circulation of blood around the body.

The more efficient your cardiovascular system, the better the body can deliver nutrients to the muscles and work its vital organs.2Cleveland Clinic. (2021, September 13). Cardiovascular System: Overview, Anatomy and Function. Cleveland Clinic; Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21833-cardiovascular-system

Cycling is an amazing form of cardiovascular exercise and has been proven to reduce blood pressure, improve heart health and function, and even put you at a lower risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

You don’t have to go to the gym to get fit (although indoor cycling is an option too). You could spend your time outside cycling on the roads and trails!

Increased cardiovascular health has many effects on the body besides lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease. One of the most noticeable is the more you cycle, the lower your heart rate can become.

This means your heart needs to beat less quickly because your body’s cardiovascular system performs much better.

A cyclist develops her fitness by cycling uphill.

#5. Cycling Builds Your Muscular Strength And Aerobic Endurance

The more you ride a bike, the more your body adapts to becoming better at it.

This is the body building its muscular strength and endurance. By cycling, the muscles increase in power, grow in mass, and become incredibly efficient with timing and that particular motion. This is particularly effective if you pair your cycling with strength training.

Another very important factor for cycling is both muscular and aerobic endurance, which can be thought of as your fitness level.

Professional cyclists can train up to 30 hours per week, pushing their bodies to the limits to ensure the correct adaptations to make the body super efficient at sending oxygen to the muscles and reducing lactic acid buildup.

However, you don’t have to cycle as much as this to being to experience the physical benefits. Even just an hour or two a week when you start out can make a big difference!

This muscular strength and aerobic endurance increase helps you cycle better and can improve other activities, such as walking and running.

#6. Cycling Helps With Weight Management

Next, we have weight management, which is one of the biggest reasons people take up cycling, which can help reduce the risk of obesity-related health conditions such as type 2 diabetes.3Rasmussen, M. G., Grøntved, A., Blond, K., Overvad, K., Tjønneland, A., Jensen, M. K., & Østergaard, L. (2016). Associations between Recreational and Commuter Cycling, Changes in Cycling, and Type 2 Diabetes Risk: A Cohort Study of Danish Men and Women. PLOS Medicine13(7), e1002076. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002076

Riding a bike burns calories, roughly 300 to 800 an hour, depending on who you are and your riding. The key to weight loss is to eat fewer calories than your body requires, so it has to go into its fat stores, which in turn burns body fat. This is called a calorie deficit.

Burning many calories via aerobic exercise – in this case, cycling – means you can ensure you’re in this deficit and lose weight or body fat, if that’s your goal. 

Tracking your calories is a great way to manage weight and keeping a healthy diet goes such a long way to feeling and cycling better.

Although weight management brings a range of benefits and reduces the risk of many health conditions, it’s also important to ensure your weight loss remains healthy.

Becoming excessively focused on weight loss can result in adverse effects such as mental health problems.

Graphic of a cyclist riding uphill on a pink background.

#7. Cycling Improves Balance And Coordination

There’s a common misconception that cycling just works the muscle groups in the legs and lower body when, in fact, it does much more than that!

It also works the core, arms, chest, and even the back. This can really help with balance and coordination.

After taking up cycling, many people find they have better coordination in day-to-day life and a much better ability to balance. This is because it forces the body to stabilize itself and helps the muscles coordinate and work together.

While everyone can benefit from improved balance and coordination, it’s especially important for older cyclists as it can help reduce the risk of falls.

#8. Cycling Boosts Bone And Joint Health

One of the biggest benefits of cycling is its effect on the bones and the joints. Being a low-impact exercise, it helps free the joints and is great for mobility and helping loosen them to increase flexibility. 

Cycling is great for not only your joints but also your bones.

The pressure it applies to your bones helps density and strength through the load. Many people going through recovery programs for bones and joints are recommended to cycle for exercise instead of walking and running

#9. Cycling Helps You Sleep Better

Regular exercise, such as cycling, is a great way to help you get the most out of your rest and sleep.

It’s easy to go to bed with lots of pent-up energy from the day and be unable to sleep. Cycling for as little as 30 minutes can help tire you out and get you the required rest.

Cycling also offers exposure to natural light and fresh air. This can be very beneficial to your circadian rhythms, helping your body realize the difference between night and day, when it should be resting and when it needs to be awake.

As someone who has struggled with insomnia in the past, I can’t reiterate enough how vital aerobic activity is in helping you sleep properly. Without a doubt, it’s the first thing any doctor will suggest if you’re having sleep problems!

Road bike leaning against a fence at sunset.
This beautiful evening I captured out on my road bike gave me such a lift! © Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

How Cycling Benefits The Soul

Cycling isn’t just great for the mind and body but also for the soul. Here’s why cycling is going to make you feel great on a spiritual level!

#10. Free Your Mind

For many cyclists, one of the best things about riding a bike is the ability to escape and free your mind.

When you go out on your bike, you can’t answer your phone, you don’t need to speak to anyone, you’re not stuck in traffic – you’re free.

Life can be a little chaotic at times, and for most, it’s go-go-go all day. When you’re on a bike, you only really need to think about one thing: pedaling.

Cycling is time for you, and having your own space to think and reflect is very healthy.

Riding my mountain bike through the forest.
Riding my mountain bike through the forest. © Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

#11. Connection To Nature

For many cyclists, including myself, riding a bike is my way to get out into nature.

Taking out your bike and getting on those lonely trails is an amazing experience. It’s quiet, and you get to enjoy the trees, the wildlife, and hopefully some sunshine and sunny skies. 

Not only do you make a connection with nature, but you also help protect it. Cycling, unlike driving, does not produce carbon emissions, and the fewer cars on the road, the less pollution and disruption to wildlife and plant life.

#12. Cycling Helps Build Social Connections

Finally, we have social connections.

One of the best parts of cycling is joining a cycling club and doing it with others. Every ride is like going on an adventure with friends. Also, with everyone feeling the endorphins, you get a great feeling of camaraderie and that you have taken on a challenge together.

You don’t have to join a club to make new friends cycling, though. It quite often just happens naturally. I have met some amazing friends on the roads and at local cafes.

It’s very easy to spark a conversation with another cyclist. All you need to say is, “I like your bike!

Now You Know All About The Benefits of Cycling…

Cycling is an amazing sport and a fantastic way to exercise. It comes with a huge number of benefits that are going to improve your brain, body, and soul. People can’t get enough of cycling, and we completely understand for many, it’s life-changing.

It’s worth recognizing that all of these benefits play into each other too! Improving your physical health is very likely to coincide with improvements to your general mood and mental health, as are other benefits such as improved sleep, greater social interaction, and so on.

Now you know the benefits of cycling, it’s time to get on the bike!

Photo of author
Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

1 thought on “12 Key Benefits of Cycling to Boost Your Brain, Body, and Soul”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.