Bicyclists enjoy many physical and mental health benefits. It’s an easy way to get fresh air and exercise, which can do wonders for a person’s mental state and physical well-being. According to Harvard Medical School, cycling can improve how you balance, walk, and climb stairs. Some other top physical benefits of cycling include:
- Aerobic exercise: bicycling is an excellent exercise for your heart, brain, and blood pressure. Aerobic exercise triggers the release of your body’s “feel-good” chemicals or endorphins.
- Muscle strengthening: When you’re cycling, you’re getting a full-body workout as you engage the muscles in your legs, abdominals, and arms to keep the bike in motion.
- Prevents stiff joints: Unlike walking or running, road cycling is a low-impact form of exercise that’s easy on the joints. For those suffering from pain and stiffness in their bones, cycling might help.
- Longer life: According to a recent study, commuting to work by cycling is linked to a lower risk of serious disease, increasing the likelihood of living a longer life.
The risks of bicycling can be deadly at times, but some factors increase the chance of being fatally hurt in an accident. According to the NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts report for bicyclists, some of the most threatening risks of road cycling include the following:
- Alcohol use: Alcohol use was involved in 37% of crashes resulting in bicyclist fatalities in the most recent data for 2017.
- Urban areas: Most bicycle crashes resulting in fatalities occurred in urban areas (75%) rather than in rural areas (25%).
- Rush hour: The most dangerous time of day for bicyclists on the road is between 6 p.m. and 8:59 p.m. when traffic is heavy as people drive home after work.
Various studies have analyzed the risk of fatal traffic crashes compared to the benefits of physical activity that road cycling can deliver. When Dr. Walter Willet, a Harvard Professor of epidemiology and nutrition, was asked about recent research reports detailing the benefits versus the risks of road cycling, he said,
“This study is important because it confirms, with a much larger sample size, previous findings from other countries. Moreover, it shows the benefits strongly outweigh the risks.”
Cycling in the U.S. is more dangerous than in other parts of the world where it’s a primary form of transportation. Countries like the Netherlands have the infrastructure and laws in place that make road cycling much safer. As cities in the U.S. increase the number of bicycle paths, separate cycle tracks, and bicycle parking areas, the benefits will continually outweigh the risk of road cycling.