Why riding a bike is the best form of exercise…
For starters, riding a bike is simply good clean fun. However, what about the health benefits? Exercise is well known to reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Recent studies have shown that it can play an important role “staying young” and preventing problems such as Alzheimers.
Riding a bike combines four important elements that make it a uniquely good for of exercise.
- Easy to learn and quickly becomes fun for a large population
- A lifelong form of exercise.
- Done predominantly in green spaces
- Achieves a level of exertion needed to improve cardiovascular fitness
The basic skills to ride a bike safely are easy to learn, regardless of age or fitness level. This has two important results. First, participants can quickly build up confidence and a sense of accomplishment, along with freedom and independence. The positive social interactions that bike riding affords are also important for the development of healthy behaviors. Second, fun activities more easily engender a desire to repeat the experience. Riding a bike is one of the few healthy behaviors, where this aspect can be experienced by so many. Once the basic skillset is learned, participation is possible at every stage of life.
A newer and growing body of research is finding that increased exposure to greenery, nature, and sunlight has a multitude of benefits. Green spaces enhance mental health and learning capacity both immediately and over time, by lowering stress levels and restoring attention. Greenery restores attention by drawing the eye while calming the nervous system simultaneously, creating a state of “calm alertness” –a state considered ideal for learning. This is in contrast to stress-based alertness associated with screen activities, which deplete attention. Similarly, studies show exposure to sunlight can reduce attention deficit symptoms, while abundant bright light first thing in the morning can help restore disrupted circadian rhythms, improve mood, and enhance restorative sleep.
In 2003, the University of Essex in the United Kingdom coined the term “Green Exercise”. They have pioneered a body of research looking at the synergy of physical activity in green environments. In 2012, Specialized Bicycles started to build upon this research by applying it to school settings with a specific focus on ADHD. They have shown that bike riding is the perfect “Green Exercise”. Essentially anyone, even many with handicaps, can achieve a level of exertion needed to produce improved cardiovascular fitness.
The core objective of Bike Austria is to address the four primary barriers preventing many persons from realizing the psychological and physical benefits of cycling.
- Lack of safe and engaging infrastructure for cycling
- Development of the necessary skill set for confident and safe cycling
- Exposure to the “Fun of Cycling” that engenders long-term participation
- Incorporating an understanding of medical conditions into the programs