Health Benefits of Regular Cycling

by David Shaffer

Scientists have studied the effects and health benefits of cardiovascular exercise for decades, and the results are unanimously lopsided—aerobic exercise leads to a happier, healthier life. While we’ve known these generic principles—get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week—for years, it is only with better science and more advanced techniques that scientists have started to pinpoint exactly how we benefit from such exercise.

An article from Bicycling magazine came across my radar a few weeks ago that took a glance at four recent studies and the benefits that those studies found. The subjects of the studies were cyclists, specifically aging cyclists, and the scientists wanted to find out how exactly aerobic cycling improves their overall health. We all know that regular exercise strengthens the heart, lowers blood pressure, and more, but it turns out that it can also help to slow down the aging process, in general. At the end of all our chromosomes, there are structures called telomeres. As we age, those telomeres degrade and shorten, which leads to cell death. One study from 2017, which focused on cyclists, found that regular exercise helps to protect those telomeres, saving up to nine years of cellular degradation.

Another study went more in depth to look at the immune system. In today’s world, a strong immune system is a great thing to have. Aging cyclists who exercised regularly not only had stronger immune systems than their sedentary peers, but they also had white blood cell counts on par with people in the much younger control group. This means their immune systems, in that regard, were as strong as people several decades younger than them. 

Finally, another recent study looked at the muscles of cyclists versus their sedentary peers. They found that regarding muscle mass and muscle strength, the active cyclists had much less muscle deterioration than the non-active control group. For those of you that have grandkids and want to play with them regularly, want to travel and explore new places, or just live an active life, this is a great find. That means you can continue to do the activities you like without as much fatigue, soreness, and weakness as someone who does not exercise.

As a personal trainer, I work with clients every day who just want to get back to the activities they used to do. I have a client that was struggling with knee pain so severe she needed to stop running and nearly stopped cycling. Now, one year later, she is back on her bike regularly and has even started to lace up her running shoes again. I can personally attest to the benefits of strength and resistance training, but I also am glad to have more evidence to the benefits of cardiovascular exercise, too. I have watched as my parents have moved into the “aging” category, but they both try to stay active with regular walking and cycling (and strength training). I will continue to use this evidence to get them out the door more often, if it will help to keep them healthy and able to play with my son for as long as possible!

HABPI is pleased to announce that our eighth annual Ride for Trails fundraiser bike ride will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23, leaving from the Gettysburg Rec Park. You can register or find more information by going to http://www.habpi.org. Then scroll down and click the “register” button on the left.

David Shaffer is a member of the HABPI Board of Directors. David is a certified personal trainer and running coach with a studio in Gettysburg. He is also an avid lover of all things outdoors.