Is Cycling Low Impact? 15 Facts (+Tips)


I’ve been a cyclist now for over 30 years, and in that time one of the biggest benefits I’ve found of this fantastic hobby is that it seems so kind on your joints compared to other forms of cardio. When researching why this is, I come back to this point fact time and time again – cycling is a low impact activity.

Cycling is a low-impact exercise which involves fluid and controlled movements. There is no jerking, twisting, or repetitive pounding. Movements and impact on joints is soft, regular in frequency, and minimal in wear and tear. Cycling cause less strain to your joints and muslces than most other exercise.

Cycling is considered an ideal muscle workout as it uses all the major muscle groups as you pedal, while doing so in a way that is not damaging to your joints.

I have put together the following guide on all the facts you need to know about why cycling is low impact, and the benefits this has. Also, there are few things to be mindful of when attempting any low-impact sport.

I’ll show you all the reasons and factual data for cycling being a low-impact exercise, after a comparative analysis. After weighing cycling with other options, you will see that cycling is in fact, the best option. 

What Is Low Impact?

Low impact is just what the term implies, exercise that’s easy on the joints and body, as compared to other workouts. Low impact doesn’t mean low intensity. High intensity can be achieved by low-impact exercise. 

Low-impact exercises are great for individuals who are new to working out. These are also ideal for athletes who are recovering from injury. These exercises provide a gentle workout on your easy days and can aid in the recovery of your strength on your harder days.

For many people who may have little arthritis, biking is one of those sports where you can benefit from the cardio and minimize the impact on your joints,” recommends James Bicos, M.D., Beaumont orthopedic surgeon, and sports medicine specialist. “With biking, there’s less impact to the knee”.

Cycling Is Low Impact – Facts

There are millions of diseases and regular physical activity will help you avoid many of those. Regular exercise is crucial in the prevention of lethal diseases such as heart conditions, mental illnesses, diabetes, and more. 

Low impact exercise can help you stay fit, lose weight, and it can do it without putting undue stress on your joints and body. Here are some of the top facts connected to cycling being low impact:

1. Leg Strength

Cycling improves overall function in your lower body. It strengthens your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. It targets leg muscles without overstressing them. 

Try other exercises like squats, leg presses, and lunges a few times per week, to further up your cycling game.

2. Muscle Strength

Cycling is a low-impact way to build your muscles and boost muscle strength. Muscle is slender than fat, and people with a higher muscle percentage tend to shed more calories even when inactive. Cycling is a form of resistance training that builds muscle, while simultaneously burning calories.

3. Ideal for beginners

Exercise doesn’t get any simpler than riding a bike as everyone knows how to ride a bike. (Source) People who have difficulty with a standard bicycle have the option of stationary bikes. If you’re new to exercising or are recovering from an injury or illness, you can cycle at a low intensity.

There are very few exercises that allow you to work during recovery or illness – cycling makes the top of the list because of its low-impact nature.

4. Core Workout

Cycling works on your core muscles, including your back and abdominals, with low intensity. Maintaining your body, keeping the bike in position, and finding a balance require some amount of core strength. 

Strong abdominals and back muscles support your spine, increase stability, and improve comfort while cycling. 

5. Helps with Cancer

Cycling is known to keep you lean and fit, which may help reduce your risk for certain types of cancer, including breast cancer. Cycling is the best low-impact exercise for you if you have cancer.

Cycling is among a selection of low-impact forms of exercise recommended by the NHS in the UK as being a healthy way to cut your risk of developing major illnesses such as cancer.

According to research from 2019, staying active if you have breast cancer may help reduce side effects of cancer treatment, including fatigue, and improve overall life quality. 

Because of its low impact nature, cycling is associated with a substantially lower risk of unfortunate health consequences. Cycling reduces the risks of breast cancer, bowel cancer, and colon cancer as well. Cycling is also recommended for cancer recovering patients.

6. Medical Conditions

Cycling helps to prevent and manage medical conditions. It is one way to avoid an inactive lifestyle and health concerns that come along with it. It can help prevent cardiac issues such as heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. 

Cycling may also help reduce, manage, and prevent type 2 diabetes. Research states that people who cycled for more than 30 minutes per day had a 40 % lower risk of developing diabetes.

7. Improves Balance, Posture, and Coordination

As you stabilize your body and keep your bike upright, you’ll improve your overall balance, coordination, and posture. Improved balance is beneficial in the prevention of fractures and falls, which can leave you out of bounds while you take time off to recover. 

Improved balance, posture, and coordination are necessary for a healthy lifestyle.

8. Low Impact Option

Cycling is a great option for people with lower body joint concerns or overall stiffness. Cycling is easy on your body, making it a gentle option for people who want an intense workout without overstressing their joints.

If you think you prefer to go for a run instead of cycling, as cycling is after all a form of exercise, keep in mind these points:

  1. Injury rates are higher with running, as it’s a weight-bearing workout whereas cycling is not;
  2. Running causes more muscle damage than cycling;
  3. Cycling saves time while running consumes more time.

9. Mental Health

Cycling can ease feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety. Focusing on the road while you’re cycling helps develop concentration and awareness of your surroundings; it helps you live in the moment. This may enable you to take your focus away from the mental tittle-tattle of the day. 

If you’re feeling unenergetic or sluggish, cycle for at least 10 minutes and feel the difference. Exercise releases endorphins, which in turn help you feel better while lowering stress levels. If done regularly, cycling also makes you feel more confident and content.

Cycling can be performed as a solo as well as combined exercise. Riding in a group broadens your social circle, which also aids in positive mental health. Getting your mental health back on track is a tough job. Doing it via a high-impact and tough exercise can make it even harder. 

Cycling lets you achieve your mental health goal by putting less stress on your body and muscles, so you can improve your mental health without physically exhausting yourself. 

10. Morning Routine

Including cycling in your morning routine can be the best decision you make for your health. Fasted morning bike rides at low intensity may burn fat, increase tolerance performance, and boost your energy and metabolism all day long. 

As it’s a low-impact workout, it wakes you up slowly by boosting your circulation. A 2019 study found that people who exercised before breakfast for 6 weeks improved their response to insulin, which helped in burning twice as much fat as those who exercised after breakfast.

11. Weight Management

Cycling regularly, at a uniform pace helps lower body fat levels, which promotes healthy weight management. Besides, you’ll increase your metabolism and build muscle, which allows you to burn more calories, even while at rest. 

Combine cycling with a healthy diet plan to lose weight comfortably. Studies show that a half-hour bike ride daily will burn nearly five kilograms of fat over a year.

Cycling burns between 400 and 1,000 calories an hour, depending on the weight of the rider and the intensity. Others factors are also included, but with low impact cycling, you are sure to burn some, if not a lot, calories. Even if it doesn’t make you lose weight, it helps to maintain it. 

12. Boosts Immune System

Studies conducted by Appalachian State University found that exercise had huge benefits on the health of the upper respiratory system – thus, reducing instances of the common cold. 

This way, cycling comes off as the low-impact exercise that is known to boost your immunity. 

13. Lung Health

Contrary to popular belief, people who ride bicycles have a lesser chance of getting exposed to dangerous fumes than those who ride in cars. 

Comparative analysis between a bus user, a pedestrian, and a cyclist in a busy street indicated that the driver experienced five times higher pollution levels than the cyclist, three and a half times more than the walker, and two and a half times more than the bus user. The cyclist won. 

14. Low Impact Cardio Workout

Biking is a great outdoor cardio workout, it bumps your heart rate and people can also gain the benefits of exercise via cross-training. You also get to kill two birds with one stone by using your bike for transportation as well as exercising and getting to work by biking. 

Cycling strengthens your heart muscles, lowers the resting heart rate (RHR), and reduces blood fat levels. Regular cycling stimulates and improves your heart, lungs, and minimizes your risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

Indoor cycling on a trainer is great way to develop form and build cardio endurance.

15. Hand Cycling and Health

These cycles are powered by hand instead of foot pedals. This style of tricycle allows amputees, people with spinal injuries, and those recovering from certain conditions like stroke, to cycle as a form of exercise and recreation. 

Hand cyclists get cardiovascular and aerobic benefits similar to those of other cyclists. 

Benefits

There are tons of benefits when it comes to cycling, in addition to it being a low-impact exercise. 

Financial: 

Bicycles are cheaper than cars and don’t require fuel. Also, you don’t need to buy a ticket and the repairs are also cheap. 

Environment-friendly

If you use your bike for transportation, it reduces your carbon footprint, hence, improving the air quality. A bonus to it is not worrying about the parking space in crowded areas. It also eliminates the need to sit in traffic for long periods. 

Social: 

Cycling improves road safety, both in terms of greater awareness and in terms of lower numbers of vehicles and the slower speeds of cycles. Fewer cars mean more interconnected and less frustrating neighborhoods. 

Cycling also helps

  1. Increase and induce fitness;
  2. Improve alertness and motivation;
  3. Encourage independence among children;
  4. Improve joint mobility;
  5. Reduce cholesterol and body fat levels;
  6. Increase life expectancy.

Why Not Go For High Impact?

High impact includes the possibility of musculoskeletal injury – low impact reduces it. Low impact allows those with arthritis or osteoporosis to exercise. It’s good for people who are overweight or obese, pregnant women, or those with bone, joint, or connective tissue issues. 

It reduces the risk of injury. It’s less jarring. Low impact exercise may even help reduce injuries for someone who also does high impact exercises.

Pedal Away!

High and low-impact exercises are both important to overall fitness. Deciding which one is the best for you will depend on your personal needs and goals. 

Cycling is considered a healthy form of exercise because of its low impact – people don’t overuse their joints the way jumping or running will make them do. Because the workout is low impact, intense interval training on an exercise bike is attainable for more people. (Source)

To be fit and healthy is not an option; you have to care for your body as much as you do for your mind, as both are interrelated. To be physically active, you need an exercise that speaks to you – something that will make you want to exercise and take out time for.

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