Cycling is both a great way of getting in shape and also a great way of getting around. One of the best lifestyle changes for overall fitness is to simply leave your car in the driveway and ride your bike down to the shops or to work instead.
Of course, there are both positives and negatives to keep in mind. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of cycling.
Pro: cycling is low impact
While it’s always possible to become overzealous when out on a run by spraining an ankle or injuring you joints, the only real way to injure yourself on a bicycle is if you fall off or crash.
Research carried out at Appalachian State University showed that cyclists suffered less muscle damage, soreness, and inflammation than long distance runners over a series of intense workouts.
Pro: cycling may be one of the best ways of improving health
A study published in 2000, which measured mortality rates among different groups of people over an average period of 14 years, found that those who cycled to work experienced a much lower mortality rate than even those who were physically active and participated in sports in their free time but didn’t cycle. The results speak for themselves: cycling is pretty good for your overall health.
Con: frequent cycling can cause sexual dysfunction in men
A 2008 study found that 60% of male participants had reported genital numbness at some point during their time cycling.
The saddle of the bicycle makes direct contact with the sensitive perineum, and the pressure generated can damage the blood vessels and nerves in the penis. This can lead to erectile dysfunction among other problems.
One of the best ways of counteracting this is to choose your bike carefully and make sure you get the most comfortable saddle possible.
Con: cycling can weaken your bones
Research has shown that male cyclists who engage in regular training suffer from poor bone mineral density in certain key areas, including the lumbar spine. This is likely because cyclists spend significant amounts of time in certain fixed positions, and also because cycling is a non-weight bearing exercise.
The sad fact is that the more time you spend on a bike, the more likely you are to suffer from bone troubles including breakages.
Should you cycle then?
As well as being a convenient way of getting around, cycling is also a fantastic means of getting fit, fast, without suffering from the joint and muscle issues which can accompany harsher forms of exercise such as running.
At the same time, though, it’s important to be mindful of how much time you spend on the bike, and how well suited the bike is to you as a cyclist. A proper saddle is essential to avoid harm to your groin, and serious cyclists should supplement their training with weight-bearing exercise to reverse negative effects on bone density.
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