Eleven great reasons for a woman to take up cycling

I found a great article on bikeradar.com entitled 30 reasons to take up cycling so I’ve edited them down and adapated my favourite 11. If you want to read the full article you’ll find it here.

1. Look younger

I’ve been blessed with good genes and many people tell me I look younger than I am but I’m glad to hear that cycling is also playing a part. Scientists at Stanford University have found that cycling regularly can protect your skin against the harmful effects of UV radiation and reduce the signs of ageing. UK Dermatologist Dr Christopher Rowland Payne explains: “Increased circulation through exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to skin cells more effectively, while flushing harmful toxins out. Exercise also creates an ideal environment within the body to optimise collagen production, helping reduce the appearance of wrinkles and speed up the healing process.”

2. Increase your brain power

It’s also comforting to hear that cycling can also make you smarter. Researchers from Illinois University found that a five per cent improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness from cycling led to an improvement of up to 15 per cent in mental tests. That’s because cycling helps build new brain cells in the hippocampus – the region responsible for memory, which deteriorates from the age of 30.

3. Beat illness

From my personal experience I’d have to say that since I’ve been riding I’ve only been to the doctor for check-ups. According to the Chief Dietician at St George’s Hospital in London “moderate exercise makes immune cells more active, so they’re ready to fight off infection”. According to research from the University of North Carolina, people who cycle for 30 minutes, five days a week take about half as many sick days as couch potatoes.

4. Live longer

I describe my own exercise program as my anti-ageing plan and it’s good to see there’s some research to back it up. King’s College London compared over 2,400 identical twins and found those who did the equivalent of just three 45-minute rides a week were nine years ‘biologically younger’ even after discounting other influences, such as body mass index (BMI) and smoking. “Those who exercise regularly are at significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, all types of cancer, high blood pressure and obesity,” said the doctor who conducted the research.

5. It’s good breeding

Cycling is also great for pregnant women. According to research from Michigan University in the US, mums-to-be who regularly exercise during pregnancy have an easier, less complicated labour, recover faster and enjoy better overall mood throughout the nine months. The baby also has a 50 per cent lower chance of becoming obese and enjoys better in-utero neurodevelopment.

6. Cycle away from the big C

There’s plenty of evidence that any exercise is useful in warding off cancer, but some studies have shown that cycling is specifically good for keeping your cells in working order. One long-term study carried out by Finnish researchers found that men who exercised at a moderate level for at least 30 minutes a day were half as likely to develop cancer as those who didn’t. And one of the moderate forms of exercise they cited? Cycling to work. Other studies have found that women who cycle frequently reduce their risk of breast cancer by 34 percent.

7. Enjoy healthy family time

Cycling is an activity the whole family can do together. Even the smallest child can clamber into a bike seat or tow-along buggy, and because it’s kind on your joints, there’s nothing to stop grandparents joining in too.

Moreover, your riding habit could be sowing the seeds for the next Cadel Evans. Studies have found that, unsurprisingly, kids are influenced by their parents’ exercise choices. Put simply, if your kids see you riding regularly, they think it’s normal and will want to follow your example.

8. Burn more fat

I’ve definitely decreased the amount of body fat on my hips and thighs since I started riding. Sports physiologists have found that the body’s metabolic rate – the efficiency with which it burns calories and fat – is not only raised during a ride, but for several hours afterwards. “Even after cycling for 30 minutes, you could be burning a higher amount of total calories for a few hours after you stop,” says sports physiologist Mark Simpson of Loughborough University.

And as you get fitter, the benefits are more profound. One recent study showed that cyclists who incorporated fast intervals into their ride burned three-and-a-half times more body fat than those who cycled constantly but at a slower pace.

9. You’re developing a positive addiction

This is one of my favourites because I often tell people that I’m addicted to cycling. William Glasser, who is the author of a book called Positive Addiction suggests you replace a harmful dependency – such as cigarettes, alcohol or eating too much chocolate – with a positive one. The result? You’re a happier, healthier person getting the kind of fix that boosts the good things in life.

10. Make friends and stay healthy

Since I took up cycling four years ago I’ve made many new friends so it’s great to hear that it’s good for my health. University of California researchers found socialising releases the hormone oxytocin, which buffers the ‘fight or flight’ response. Another nine-year study from Harvard Medical School found those with the most friends cut the risk of an early death by more than 60 per cent, reducing blood pressure and strengthening their immune system. The results were so significant that the researchers concluded not having close friends or confidants is as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.

11. Spend quality time with your partner

It doesn’t matter if your paces aren’t perfectly matched – just slow down and enjoy each other’s company. Many couples make one or two riding ‘dates’ every week. And it makes sense: exercise helps release feel-good hormones, so after a ride you’ll have a warm feeling towards each other.