Following on from my blog post a couple of weeks ago challenging women to take up road cycling, here are my 12 very compelling reasons every woman should take up road cycling. In truth, the posts should have been published the other way around, but better late than never. Here’s the motivation and you’ll have to skip back two weeks to read the practical stuff.
Scientists at Stanford University have found that regular cycling protects your skin against the harmful effects of UV radiation and reduces the signs of ageing.
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.”
Increase brain power
Researchers from the University of Illinois found that a ﬁve per cent improvement in cardio-respiratory ﬁtness from cycling led to an improvement of up to 15 percent 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.
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.
Improves your sex life
Being more physically active improves your vascular health, which has the knock-on effect of boosting your sex drive, according to health experts in the US. One study from Cornell University also concluded that male athletes have the sexual prowess of men two to ﬁve years younger, with physically ﬁt females delaying the menopause by a similar amount of time.
It’s good for pregnancy
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. Your baby has a 50 percent lower chance of becoming obese and enjoys better in-utero neuro development.
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. Other studies have found that women who cycle frequently reduce their risk of breast cancer by 34 per cent.
Enjoy guilt-free snacks
Upping your salt intake is seldom your doctor’s advice, but in the few days leading up to a big ride, that’s exactly what you should do. This gives you the perfect excuse to munch on chips and other salty foods you might normally avoid. The sodium in them helps protect your body against hyponatraemia, a condition caused by drinking too much water without enough sodium that can lead to disorientation, illness, and worse.
Get fit without trying too hard
According to the National Forum for Coronary Heart Disease Foundation in the US, regular cyclists enjoy a ﬁtness level equal to that of a person who is 10 years younger.
You’re developing a positive addiction
I often tell people that I’m addicted to cycling, but they all agree that it’s not a bad addiction to develop. The result? I’m a happier, healthier person getting the kind of ﬁx that boosts the good things in life.
Get (a legal) high
Once a thing of myth, the infamous ‘runner’s high’ has been proven beyond doubt by German scientists. Yet despite the name, this high applies to all endurance athletes.
University of Bonn neurologists visualised endorphins in the brains of 10 volunteers before and after a two-hour cardio session using a technique called positive emission tomography (PET). Comparing the pre- and post-run scans, they found evidence of more opiate binding of the happy hormone in the frontal and limbic regions of the brain — areas known to be involved in emotional processing and dealing with stress.
Make friends and stay healthy
The social side of riding could be doing you as much good as the actual exercise and health benefits. 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.
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. My partner and I ride at very different paces but we enjoy the occasional ride together, and we enjoy having the ‘addiction’ and sharing all aspects of it.
And it makes sense – exercise helps release feel-good hormones, so after a ride, you’ll have a warm feeling towards each other.