Health: The benefits of cycling
Is there a particular health benefit to cycling?
Any physical activity is beneficial, however some practices can have less positive side effects, especially on the joints and tendons. Cycling has the great advantage of avoiding impacts on the ground and/or sudden changes of direction, putting less strain on joints, tendons and ligaments.
Cycling is also a frequent activity among seniors, because of its gentle and regular nature in its leisure practice. It allows to keep the cardiovascular benefits (among others), without any real age limit.
Cycling is particularly recommended for the cardiovascular system, the venous system in particular, because of the use of the calf muscles which act as a "venous pump" fighting against the stagnation of blood in the legs.
Finally, cycling, when practiced in moderation, is one of the most profitable physical exercises from a metabolic point of view thanks to the aerobic functioning (see below).
Is electric assistance an obstacle to health benefits?
As far as physical activity is concerned, it has been shown that it is better to train regularly at moderate intensity rather than very intensely, and more rarely.
In fact, the most beneficial physical effort for the body is the so-called "aerobic" activity, which occurs through the use of large muscle masses (most often located in the legs) with a moderate intensity. An activity is considered "moderate" between 60 and 85% of the maximum cardiovascular capacity, which is specific to each individual (defined by age and heart rate).
When exercise exceeds 85% of this maximum heart rate, the demand for oxygen from the muscles can no longer be supplied by the heart and lungs, resulting in "anaerobic" (oxygen-deficient) functioning. Anaerobic exercise leads to the production of lactic acid (cramps), with other side effects (nausea, dizziness).
Electric assistance leads to a 40% lower hourly calorie expense than the unassisted bike (214 cal/hr vs. 411 cal/hr), which makes aerobic exercise more likely.
Electric assistance is therefore in no way an obstacle to health benefits, on the contrary, since it leads to a moderate effort, unless of course you don't press the pedals or, alternatively, don't use the assistance!
Overall, what are the health benefits of
Physical activity leads to the activation of many beneficial phenomena for the human body:
- The starting point is the increase in oxygen requirements following physical exercise, primarily at the level of the muscles. The heart will thus supply more oxygenated blood, by more frequent contractions, allowing an increase in the flow through the arteries which are the transport ways of oxygenated blood towards the organs. The increase in oxygen needs is ensured by the increase in the activity of the lungs, which supply the heart with oxygenated blood.
- Like any muscle, the heart will be strengthened by this activity (especially if it is regular), the arteries will be more resistant to aging (by the increase in flow), as will the lungs, which will better manage toxic aggressions (thanks to the increase in ventilation volume).
- After the oxygen has been delivered to the muscles, the blood will return via the veins to the lungs, to be oxygenated again. The flow increase will also be beneficial for veins with a reduction in the risk of thrombosis (phlebitis), varicose veins (permanent dilatation with reflux) and discomfort due to prolonged standing up (heaviness, pain, swelling).
- The muscles will of course be strengthened (depending on the activities practiced of course), which will better protect the joints, ligaments and tendons that are related.
- Thus, the risk of cardiovascular diseases will be reduced (heart disease, arteriopathy, high blood pressure, phlebitis, varicose veins), as well as lung damage (bronchial congestion and emphysema) and joint/tendons/ligament damage (arthrosis, ligament or tendon rupture).
- In fact, the increase in oxygenated blood flow generated by physical activity is a major benefit for all organs since it allows them to better resist aging. This is particularly true for the immune system (reduced risk of infection and cancer), for the digestive system (better transit), for the systems that regulate hormones and metabolism (reduced risk of diabetes, excess cholesterol and triglycerides) and for weight management (reduced risk of overweight and obesity), to name just a few examples.
- Regular activity also has a major psychological benefit with the
production of endorphins that increase well-being, and with a positive
effect in particular on stress and self-esteem.
What is the ideal frequency of this practice to have the best benefit on health?
Because of the greater benefit of regular training at moderate intensity rather than very intense and less frequent training (see above), training 3, 4 or 5 times a week is excellent, even for a relatively short duration (15 minutes for example), especially at the beginning.
It is of course possible to increase the duration afterwards, if the intensity remains moderate.
Thus, cycling has many beneficial effects for all organs, especially the cardiovascular system, with a preventive effect on the development of many diseases.
This is particularly true with a moderate and regular practice, without age limit, which is the case when using a bicycle with electric assistance for daily activities.