Cycling is a great full body workout. As well as the obvious health benefits that pedal power exercise gives, it will also help you reach your weight loss goals quickly and efficiently. Setting your metabolism on fire, cycling helps you that extra weight melt away in a healthy and sensible way. This article takes a look at why getting on your bike is so good for you and how to get started.
If you are carrying some excess weight, it can be difficult to choose an exercise that is safe and easy on your joints. Most overweight people opt for swimming. But many forget about cycling and its many benefits. Whether on a stationary bike at the gym, mountain bike for off roading or a road bike to get out in the open spaces (roads or cycle paths), cycling is a low impact sport meaning it is easier on your joints but at the same time increases heart rate and strengthens your muscles.
If you have never cycled before (or used to cycle as a child), taking those first steps to get on the saddle can be daunting. It might be easier to start off on an exercise bike at the gym or a spin class to get the feel for a bike and the motion of cycling. If you are already a pro, you can choose something like a 29er mountain bike or something similar as they can aid you in your motive. Spin classes mean you follow a set programme (usually with a trainer/instructor), but you can adjust the gears and intensity to suit your fitness levels. Once you’ve plucked up some courage and have decided to get out on the roads, here are a few starter tips …
- Choose the best bike for your body and frame (height and weight). A bike shop can measure you so that your bike fits properly
- Safety first! Make sure you have a helmet and the right protective gear
- Purchase some cycling clothing, including high vis and waterproof, breathable tops and shorts
- Consider whether you’d prefer to cycle with a friend, as part of a cycling club or alone. If alone, make sure you carry a mobile phone with you and map your route before setting off
- Familiarise yourself with road safety for bicycles
- Plan a training routine and set a goal – the best way to do this is by signing up to a cycling event
Once you’ve got the right equipment and thought about the basics, you can get on your bike, get pedalling and get trim! Cycling is a great way to burn calories. While the number of calories burned in an average half hour session varies depending on how hard you cycle and your weight, it can be around the 200 mark, but up to 600. As you lose weight and get fitter, you’ll likely cycle faster and burn even more calories.
As you lose weight, cycling will also help with toning and muscle definition. Frequent cycling sessions will help strengthen your core (middle section), firm up your glutes (butt muscles), quads and hamstrings (thighs) and calf muscles (lower legs), as well as increase flexibility in your hips. It will do all of this without putting excess pressure on your knee or ankle joints, which is why it such an exercise of choice for people starting out with exercise, rehabilitation after an injury, older people with weak joints or those carrying a few extra pounds.
H.I.I.T. for weight loss
HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training can be used while cycling for an intense calorie burn that keeps working after you finish exercising! The idea is to pedal flat out for around 30 seconds and then rest, repeating this. This makes your heart rate spike and your body work more efficiently to burn calories. Many exercise classes use the HIIT method. This will also help break up a long bike ride – with quicker and slower sections – and you’ll know that once you are showered and changed and are relaxing on the sofa, you will still be burning calories and losing weight.
Eating the right food
When you take up cycling, you might notice that you are always hungry. This is normal! Your heart rate increases and everything is working more efficiently, you blood has been pumped around your body and to your muscles during exercise and this extra effort can leave you feeling fatigued. Make sure you eat enough to sustain you, but do not be tempted to overeat.
After a workout, opt for some carbohydrates in your meals and aim to eat within one hour of exercise (when your metabolism is working more efficiently). You want to fuel your body to be able to handle the efforts of cycling and also to repair muscles after a workout. Try to eat small, regular meals before cycling and foods high in protein (e.g. eggs and meat).
As well as the obvious weight loss benefits of cycling, it will also improve your fitness levels, strength and endurance. Unlike running, you can cycle for longer periods of time and maintain a good speed/level and cover a large distance in relatively short time. Cycling helps your heart and lungs work hard, improving your overall cardio fitness and decreasing your risk of heart related diseases (stroke, heart attacks etc). While your weight loss will be easy to see (especially when you fit into jeans a size smaller), the benefits on the inside of your body will be impressive as well! What the scales don’t show you is how long and healthy a life you can live by exercising regularly.
Cycling is a fun but challenging workout, suitable for all ages, all fitness levels and body shapes. It can be done alone or with a social group and for pleasure or to train to win events. The best thing about cycling is that you can tone up and lose pounds in a relatively short amount of time – and most of the time, when passing beautiful scenery, it doesn’t feel like a slog!
What’s more, as you lose weight, you can be proud of the fact that you are getting from A to B in an environmentally-friendly way. You can pick interesting routes and change your cycle paths to keep yourself interested and motivated and you can lose weight, while improving fitness and enjoying a new hobby. It’s a win-win situation!