If youâ€™re looking to get fit, slim down, or increase your cardiovascular health, there are few better activities like cycling. Itâ€™s easy on your joints, builds muscle, can help you stay lean and improves your balance.
One Good Turn Deserves Another
A 2000 study found people who regularly ride a bike for an hour a day have an 18 percent lower risk of death than people who never ride. Those who ride for at least an hour and a half have a 28 percent lower risk of death. Much of this reduced mortality may be owed to the lower incidence of heart disease this intensely cardiovascular activity provides. A study of more than 23,000 cyclists showed an 18 percent lower rate of heart disease compared to non-cyclists.
The mental benefits of cycling rival the physical. It can reduce anxiety and stress, boost confidence, make you happier, and help you sleep better. â€œâ€™Any time you exercise, it releases endorphins,â€ says Allicia Austin1, an exercise physiologist with MD Andersonâ€™s Cancer Prevention Center. Endorphins can help you feel better when you are under stress, and â€œwhen you exercise outside,â€ Austin says, â€œyou release serotonin in addition to endorphins. This helps manage stress hormones, which could help decreases your risk for cancer.â€
Cyclists even have reduced rates of cancer. A 2012 study revealed that independent of BMI, cyclists experience 45 percent fewer incidences of cancer compared with non-cyclists â€“ the more they rode, the lower their risk.
The Other Side of Cycling
Unfortunately, however, cycling outdoors isnâ€™t without risk of accidents and injuries. While Linda Degutis, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)â€™s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, believes â€œbicycling seem[s] no more dangerous than other sports,â€ the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which releases national traffic safety facts annually, said the number of bicyclists killed in 2015 rose by 12.2 percent from 2014, with 818 cyclist fatalities involving motor vehicles.
The worst cities for fatalities are Albuquerque, Tucson, Las Vegas and Phoenix. The nation’s capital, where city officials have pushed to improve biking infrastructure is among the safer cities to bike.
Weighing the pros and cons of cycling relative to each other is difficult, to say the least.
â€œItâ€™s not that there is a lack of data,â€ says a New York Times article called How Safe Is Cycling? Itâ€™s Hard to Say. â€œInstead, it is that the data are inadequate to answer the questions. No one has good statistics, for example, on crashes per mile ridden. Nor do the data distinguish road cycling on a fast, light, bike with thin tires from mountain biking down dirt paths filled with obstacles or recreational cycling on what the industry calls a comfort bike. Yet they are very different sports.â€
The Secret to Cycling Success – 6 Safety Tips
For those who love cycling â€“ either as a hobby, a means of commuting, or a sport â€“ the physical and mental reward greatly outweighs the risk. Even then, itâ€™s important to consider the potential risks of cycling each and every time you get on a bike. Here are some useful cycling tips on how to stay safe when you ride:
- Wear a helmet. A 2016 study of more than 6,000 riders published in the American Journal of Surgery showed helmeted bicycle riders involved in accidents had 51 percent reduced odds of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), 44% reduced odds of mortality, and 31 percent reduced odds of facial fractures.
- Bike sober. Not only can you get a DUI or DWI on a bicycle in many places, but youâ€™re putting yourself at greater risk of injury and death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 27 percent of cyclists killed had been drinking, and 19 percent of cyclists killed had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 g/dL or higher.
- Consider a coach or cycling training program – they’re not just for elite athletes anymore!Â Achieve Training Programs the official training sponsors of the Jensie Gran Fondo, facilitated by Dana Williams, who has been racing and coaching since retiring as a member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team in 2001. You can find a certified coach or training program in your area by visiting USA Cyclingâ€™s â€œFind a Coachâ€ feature. If youâ€™re going to cycle regularly, itâ€™s important to make sure your body is properly conditioned or youâ€™ll risk getting hurt.
- Obey the rules of the road. Amateur cyclists sometimes think they can get the privileges of both drivers and pedestrians when theyâ€™re riding their bikes among traffic, which is very dangerous. Make sure you know proper turning hand signals, donâ€™t weave erratically among stopped cars and utilize bike lanes whenever possible.
- Invest in safety gear. Besides a helmet, a few key pieces of bicycle safety and comfort equipment can make sure your biking journeys are safe and pleasant. Reflective clothing will make sure youâ€™re visible to others when the sun goes down. A blinking red tail light during daytime rides has become the standard safety protocol for most serious cyclists. If you commute or ride at dawn, dusk or nighttime, a headlamp will help you see any uneven terrain or obstacles in front of you. A water bottle–or two–will help you stay hydrated on longer rides, especially in the heat. A portable tire pump or CO2 cartridges and a patch kit and tape could save your ride if youâ€™re stranded on the side of the road with a flat. And it’s always a good idea to be prepared with a first aid kit, just in case–Brave Products offers a “Crash Pak” Road Rash Survival Kit for cyclists that fit easily in a jersey or backpack pocket.
- Protect your family. As a cyclist, you may be eligible for preferred life insurance rates. Itâ€™s certainly worth making sure. Even though many people believe the health benefits of cycling regularly outweigh the risks, the risks of leaving your family without life insurance benefits is never worth the risk.
SelectQuote is proud to sponsor the 2017 Jensie Gran Fondo, in Marin County, California, on October 7. For more information about making sure you and your family are protected no matter where your bike takes you, contact us today at 855-272-6455 or get a free quote at selectquote.com Â Ride on.
1 Anderson, L.B., Schnohr, P., Schroll, M. (2000). All-Cause Mortality Associated With Physical Activity During Leisure Time, Work, Sports, And Cycling to Work. JAMA Internal Medicine. Retrieved from http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/485349.
2 Kerkar, P. (2017). Mental Health Benefits of Cycling: Is Cycling Linked with the Brain Power? ePainAssist. Retrieved from https://www.epainassist.com/mental-health/mental-health-benefits-of-cycling.
3 Hou, L., Ji, B., Blair, A. Chow, W. Commuting Physical Activity and Risk of Colon Cancer in Shanghai, China. PubMed. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8219622_Commuting_Physical_Activity_and_Risk_of_Colon_Cancer_in_Shanghai_China.
4 Bicycle Safety. (2017). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/bicycle/index.html.
5 Kolata, G. (2013). How Safe Is Cycling? Itâ€™s Hard to Say. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/21/how-safe-is-cycling-its-hard-to-say/?mcubz=3.
6 Joseph, B. (2017). Bicycle helmets work when it matters most. The American Journal of Surgery, Volume 213, Issue 2. Retrieved from http://www.americanjournalofsurgery.com/article/S0002-9610(16)30366-X/fulltext.
7 Bicycle Safety. (2017). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/bicyclists.