WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: Health Benefits of Cycling (and you can Cycle at Campus Rec!)

This blog post was written by Emily Wheeler and is published as a part of our blog exchange with Tar Teel Tone-Up.

We all know that walking is a great form of exercise and a great way to get around, especially on campus. However, evidence shows that biking may be an even better form of transportation for our health, and few places in the country are as biker-friendly as college towns, including Chapel Hill and the surrounding area. Cycling has repeatedly been noted as a great form of exercise to promote public health for many reasons. Some of the benefits of cycling include:

  • Many people simply find it enjoyable!
  • Biking can take place indoors or outdoors: in a gym on a stationary bike or out in the great outdoors on a real set of wheels
  • Cycling “effectively taxes the cardiorespiratory and metabolic functions of the whole body in a variety of intensities” (P. Oja, et al., 2011)

    A2 Cycling Classic (#21 of 115)
    Photo: “C2 Cycling Classic (#21 of 115) by Adam Steenwyk, Flickr Creative Commons.

Even though walking is great, 2010 meta-analysis by Andersen and Cooper found that among children and youth, those who cycled to school had a better fitness level and “better cardiovascular risk factor profile” compared to those who walked to school! A previous 2006 study by Cooper et al. quantified differences in fitness among Danish school children ages 9-15 using measurable fitness tests to find that “the cyclists were nearly five times as likely as the walkers and the passive commuters to be in the top quartile of fitness” (P. Oja, et al., 2011). This study also found that “fitness improved significantly among those who changed from non-cycling to cycling during the follow up.”

The systematic review published by P. Oja, et al. cited sixteen studies showing health benefits seen specifically from cycling and ranging from reduced risk of obesity and diabetes to reduced risk of colon cancer and overall improved cardiovascular fitness. Chapel Hill is lucky enough to have bike lanes galore, making it convenient to cycle from your home to campus or from class to class. Not only will you get there faster, you’ll also be gaining an extra health advantage compared to walking!

If you don’t have a bike, don’t prefer to cycle on the actual road, or simply for those rainy days when you want to stay inside as much as possible—good news: Campus Rec is here for you! Both of our fitness centers, Ram’s Head and the Student Recreation Center, have various types of stationary bikes that let you keep track of your time, distance, and resistance as you cycle! You can use these anytime the gym is open by signing your name on the cardio equipment sign-up sheet and picking an available bike.

On days when I’m really crunched for workout time, I like to take a reading assignment for one of my classes, either on paper or on my iPad, and read it while I cycle! It’s a great way to multitask and it’ll definitely keep you awake and alert as you read that assignment! I’ve seen other students make “deals with themselves” where they tell themselves that they can only watch their favorite show on Netflix that day if they watch it on their iPad at the gym while cycling. It’s one of the few pieces of cardio equipment where you can actually get a good workout while still multitasking if necessary!

For those of you looking for an even more intense cycle experience for the targeted purpose of getting a great workout, you’ll want to check out the Campus Rec group fitness cycle classes! These classes are limited to 30 participants per class, so you have to bring your OneCard to sign up for the class up to 24 hours in advance at the front desk of the SRC.

The class duration ranges from 45 minutes to 1 hour, during which time you will easily bike 10-15 miles throughout a series of drills, “hills,” and “jumps!” The instructor plays music and calls instructions for increasing and decreasing the resistance to mimic the hills, and different positions for your body on the bike, such as standing or sitting. Jumps consist of alternating between standing and sitting at regular count intervals, such as every four beats, or every two beats if you’re really going fast.

Here are a few things I learned from my experience with the group fitness cycle classes:

  1. It is completely normal to feel like you may figuratively die at any moment the first time you attend one of these classes, no matter now much you’ve ridden a real bike. (Obviously if you actually feel sick or dizzy, you should stop immediately, but I am referring to the extreme panting and disbelief that the instructor was actually still talking I experienced my first time.)
  2. For the love of your body and all that is good and merciful, please BRING A WATERBOTTLE. There is a place on the bikes for you to put them.
  3. No matter how proper or ladylike you are in your daily life, you are going to sweat like a beast, so go ahead and grab that towel they’re offering you at the front desk.
  4. If you can’t keep up with the rpm (a measure on the screen of how fast you’re going) that the instructor is suggesting, don’t feel bad! Take it at your own pace and eventually you’ll improve.
  5. Your legs may feel like Jell-O after you get off of the bike to the point where you are actually forced to take the elevator to your floor once you get back to your dorm or apartment. No shame.
  6. You will feel ridiculously powerful after getting through that workout, and you will immediately understand how you can’t help but improve your cardiovascular fitness if you make cycling a habit.

Check out our schedule of group fitness cycle classes by clicking here, and come join us to try one out this semester! “Introduction to Cycling” classes, each lasting 30 minutes, will also be held regularly throughout the semester to introduce you to a group cycle class, help you learn how to adjust the bike properly for your body, and show you what to expect for next time! Come grab your health benefits by signing up for a cycle class next week!

Works Cited:

Oja, P., Titze, S., Bauman, A., de Geus, B., Krenn, P., Reger-Nash, B. and Kohlberger, T. (2011), Health benefits of cycling: a systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 21: 496–509. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2011.01299.x

One thought on “WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: Health Benefits of Cycling (and you can Cycle at Campus Rec!)

  1. Pedal Power October 28, 2015 / 3:47 pm

    Good article on the health benefits of cycling. I think everyone can benefit from hopping on the two wheeled vehicle every now and again.

    Thanks for the article.


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