Table of Contents
- 1. Increased cardiovascular fitness:
- 2. Increased muscle strength and endurance:
- 3. What are the effects of cycling on endorphins ?
- What exactly are endorphins ?
- What types of exercise impact endorphins the most ?
- Endorphin response related to exercise intensity
- How does cycling affect endorphins ?
- What are the health benefits associated with increased endorphin release ?
- 4. Cycling is an excellent exercise for building leg and core strength.:
- How exactly does cycling affect leg muscles ?
- Cyclings effects on our quadriceps
- Cyclings effect on our calves
- Cyclings effects on our hamstrings
- Leg strength:
- How does cycling affect our core muscles
- Benefits of increased core strength
Many of us wonder as we cycle, or after having completed a massive day of training, what exactly is happening in our bodies and what are the real benefits to our health ?
Granted, we are all different. We have all been in a situation where we are hanging from the back of the pack for dear life, gasping for air whilst some of our friends are chatting in the group in front about whether they will have one, or three croissants at the next coffee stop !
We all have differing levels of fitness, strengths and weaknesses as well as physiologies.
Some of us are fast twitch athletes and able to drop the hammer as we wish, dropping most everybody around us. Others may not have this power on demand, yet can seemingly push 30% less wattage for hours on end.
So when we are riding, off-road or on a freshly paved tarmac with our riding group, what exactly is going on inside our bodies ?
Cycling leads to a range of physiological adaptations in the body over time.
Here we will cover some of the key adaptations that occur with regular cycling:
1. Increased cardiovascular fitness:
Cycling is a great way to improve cardiovascular health, as it increases the efficiency of our heart and lungs and improves overall circulation throughout our body.
This in turn leads to a number of potential health benefits, such as:
Improved heart health: Cardiovascular fitness is closely correlated to heart health, and regular aerobic exercise like cycling helps to improve the efficiency of the heart and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Improved lung function: Improved cardiovascular fitness can also lead to improved lung function, as the lungs become more efficient at delivering oxygen to the body during exercise.
Reduced risk of chronic disease: Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer.
Improved energy levels: Improved cardiovascular fitness can lead to increased energy levels and reduced feelings of fatigue.
Improved mood: Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to have mood-boosting effects, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety and promoting feelings of well-being.
Improved cognitive function: Regular exercise has also been linked to improved cognitive function, including better memory, concentration, and decision-making abilities.
Increased longevity: Improved cardiovascular fitness has been linked to increased longevity, with regular exercise helping to reduce the risk of premature death.
Regular cycling is an effective way to promote cardiovascular fitness and improve overall health and well-being.
2. Increased muscle strength and endurance:
Cycling provides us with a low-impact way to build muscle strength and endurance, particularly in our legs and core.
This increased muscle strength and endurance can lead to a number of potential health benefits that spill over to our daily lives outside of our athletic pursuits.these include;
Enhanced physical performance, making it easier to perform daily activities, participate in a variety of other sports and recreational activities, and complete workouts.
A reduced risk of injuries and onset osteoporosis. Strong muscles and joints are less prone to injury, and improved muscle strength and endurance can help to reduce the risk of strains, sprains, and other injuries.
An Improved body composition: Increased muscle mass can help us to improve our body composition by reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass, leading to a more toned and defined physique.
An Increased bone density: Cycling is a form of resistance training, which is often used to build muscle strength and endurance, has been shown to improve bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions.
An increased metabolism: Increased muscle mass helps to boost metabolism, leading to increased calorie burn and weight loss.
Enhanced insulin sensitivity: Improved muscle strength and endurance have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
An overall Improved quality of life: Improved muscle strength and endurance can lead to improved quality of life, as it can make daily activities easier and more enjoyable.
3. What are the effects of cycling on endorphins ?
All forms of exercise have been shown to have a positive effect on the release of endorphins When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins into our bloodstream, which help to alleviate stress, improve mood, and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
What exactly are endorphins ?
Endorphins are natural chemicals produced by the body that function as neurotransmitters in the brain and nervous system. They are sometimes referred to as “feel-good” chemicals because they can produce feelings of pleasure, reduce pain and anxiety, and boost mood.
Endorphins are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in response to various stimuli, such as exercise, pain, stress, and certain foods. They work by binding to specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord, which can block the transmission of pain signals and promote feelings of well-being and euphoria.
Endorphins are similar in structure and function to opiate drugs like morphine and heroin, which is why they are sometimes referred to as the body’s natural painkillers. However, unlike these drugs, endorphins are not addictive and do not produce harmful side effects when produced naturally in the body.
In addition to reducing pain and boosting mood, endorphins have also been shown to have other health benefits, such as improving immune function, reducing inflammation, and promoting the growth of new brain cells.
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to stimulate the release of endorphins, as it increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which in turn triggers the production of these natural painkillers.
Research has also shown that the effects of exercise on endorphins can be long-lasting, with regular exercise leading to sustained increases in endorphin levels over time. This means that regular exercise can help to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety, even when you’re not actively engaged in physical activity.
Overall, the effects of exercise on endorphins are just one of the many reasons why physical activity is so important for overall health and well-being. Whether you’re looking to improve your mood, reduce stress, or simply feel better, exercise is a powerful tool that can help you achieve your goals.
What types of exercise impact endorphins the most ?
As cyclists, many of us don’t only participate in other activities such as running, swimming, strength training, football or other pastimes. To understand how endorphins are affected by exercise we need to understand the following;
While any type of exercise can help to stimulate the release of endorphins, research suggests that certain types of exercise may be more effective than others in producing this effect. :
- Aerobic exercise: Any type of cardiovascular exercise that gets your heart rate up and keeps it elevated for a sustained period of time can be effective at triggering the release of endorphins. Examples include running, cycling, swimming, and dancing or even playing with your kids or animals.
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT): This type of exercise involves short bursts of high-intensity activity followed by periods of rest or lower-intensity activity. HIIT has been shown to increase endorphin levels more than steady-state exercise. From the perspective of cyclists, we can translate this into interval training, breaking away from the pack, pulling from the front, accelerating up a hill, etc.
- Resistance training: Lifting weights or doing other types of strength training can also stimulate the release of endorphins, particularly when performed at a high intensity.Heavy gear work at cadence below 75 is a classic example as is extended climbing.
- Yoga and other mind-body exercises: Practices that combine physical movement with mindfulness and relaxation, such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong, can also increase endorphin levels due to their focus on breathing and relaxation.
It’s worth noting that the duration, intensity, and frequency of exercise can all impact the release of endorphins. Regular exercise over a sustained period of time is more likely to produce sustained increases in endorphin levels than sporadic or infrequent exercise.
Endorphin response related to exercise intensity
The release of endorphins in response to exercise is generally related to exercise intensity. As exercise intensity increases, so does the release of endorphins.
For example, high-intensity exercise like sprinting or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is typically associated with a greater release of endorphins compared to low-intensity exercise like walking or gentle stretching.
Research has shown that the intensity of exercise can also impact the duration of endorphin release. High-intensity exercise has been shown to produce a longer-lasting endorphin response compared to low-intensity exercise.
It’s worth noting, however, that individual differences in endorphin response to exercise can vary based on factors like genetics, fitness level, and previous exercise experience. Some people may experience a greater endorphin response to low-intensity exercise, while others may need to engage in higher-intensity exercise to experience the same effect.
Overall, exercise intensity appears to be an important factor in the release of endorphins, with higher-intensity exercise generally producing a greater and longer-lasting endorphin response compared to low-intensity exercise.
How does cycling affect endorphins ?
Cycling, particularly when performed at a moderate to high intensity, can stimulate the release of endorphins in the body.
As with other forms of aerobic exercise, cycling increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which in turn triggers the release of endorphins.
In addition to boosting endorphin levels, cycling has a number of other potential benefits for mental and physical health.
Cycling can help to reduce stress and anxiety by promoting feelings of relaxation and well-being as well as improve cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and improve overall physical fitness.
As cycling is often also a social activity, which can help to boost mood and provide a sense of community and connection there is an increase in endorphin release simply by getting outdoors to provide exposure to sunlight, which can help to boost vitamin D levels and improve mood.
Overall, cycling can be an effective way to boost endorphin levels and improve mental and physical health. Whether you’re cycling outdoors or using a stationary bike, regular cycling can provide a range of benefits for overall well-being.
What are the health benefits associated with increased endorphin release ?
Increased endorphin release is associated with a number of potential health benefits, including but not limited to the following;
Pain relief: Endorphins act as natural painkillers, and increased endorphin levels can help to reduce the perception of pain.
Improved mood: Endorphins can promote feelings of happiness and well-being, which can help to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Reduced stress: Endorphins can help to reduce the production of stress hormones like cortisol, which can have a range of negative effects on the body over time.
Improved immune function: Endorphins have been shown to have immune-boosting effects, which can help to protect against illness and infection.
Reduced inflammation: Endorphins may also have anti-inflammatory effects, which can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Increased physical fitness: Endorphins can help to reduce feelings of fatigue and increase motivation to exercise, which can lead to improved physical fitness over time.
Overall, increased endorphin release is associated with a range of potential health benefits, including improved pain management, mood, stress levels, immune function, and physical fitness.
Regular exercise and other activities that stimulate endorphin release can be effective ways to promote overall well-being and improve quality of life.
4. Cycling is an excellent exercise for building leg and core strength.:
How exactly does cycling affect leg muscles ?
Cycling provides a buffet of benefits for the leg muscles that are hard to find in any other sport.
Cycling is an excellent way to strengthen our leg muscles, particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
As we pedal, your leg muscles contract and extend repeatedly, providing resistance that can help build muscle strength and endurance.
Cyclings effects on our quadriceps
The quadriceps, which are the large muscles located on the front of the thigh.are significantly isolated when cycling, making cycling a tremendous exercise for quadricep development.
As cycling requires the use of the quadriceps to extend the knee joint and push the pedals forward. This repeated motion of contracting and relaxing the quadriceps helps to build strength and endurance.
Cycling can rapidly assist in building muscle mass in the quadriceps as the quadriceps are repeatedly engaged during cycling, This engagement provides a form of resistance training that stimulates muscle growth.
Cycling can also help to burn fat from the quadriceps, which can help to improve muscle definition and tone.
As a low-impact exercise that places minimal stress on the knee joint, cycling can be beneficial for the quadriceps, which attach to the knee and can be prone to injury or strain.
Cyclings effect on our calves
Cycling can have a significant effect on the entire calf muscle, as cycling requires the use of the calf muscles, particularly the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles which are activated during the downward pedal stroke and provide the power needed to push the pedals.
Cycling also helps build endurance in the calf muscles. As we cycle, our calf muscles are engaged in a repetitive motion that requires them to contract and relax continuously. Over time, this enhances their endurance and ability to sustain effort for longer periods of time.
Due to this repetitive motion, cycling also helps tone the calf muscles. The resistance provided by pedaling helps build muscle mass and improve the appearance of the calves.
Cycling may also improve the flexibility of the calf muscles. The repetitive motion of cycling can help stretch and lengthen the calf muscles, improving their range of motion and reducing the risk of injury.
Cyclings effects on our hamstrings
Cycling can also have a significant effect on our hamstrings, which are the large muscles located on the back of our thigh.
As cycling requires the use of the hamstrings to flex the knee joint and pull the pedals up, this repeated motion of contracting and relaxing the hamstrings helps to build strength and endurance.
Cycling can also help to build muscle mass in the hamstrings, as the hamstrings are repeatedly engaged during cycling, providing a form of resistance training that stimulates muscle growth.
Cycling may also assist in burning fat from the hamstrings, which may help improve muscle definition and tone.
As cycling is a low-impact exercise that places minimal stress on the knee joint, it can be beneficial for the hamstrings, which attach to the knee and can be prone to injury or strain.
Additionally, cycling can also help to improve hamstring flexibility as the repeated motion of cycling helps to stretch and lengthen the hamstrings, reducing the risk of injury and improving overall flexibility.
Due to its low-impact and being a repetitive, weight-bearing exercise that primarily works the muscles of the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes, cycling builds strength and endurance over time.
Overall, cycling is a great exercise that can have significant benefits for leg muscles, including strengthening, improved cardiovascular fitness, low-impact exercise, and fat burning.
Cycling is an excellent exercise for building and toning the calves,quadriceps and hamstrings, improving their endurance and flexibility, and reducing the risk of injury.
How does cycling affect our core muscles
While cycling primarily works the lower body, it also engages the core muscles, including the abs and lower back muscles.
As we pedal, we must maintain an upright posture and engage our core muscles to stabilize your body and maintain proper form. This constant engagement of the core muscles can help to build strength and endurance over time, leading to improved posture, balance, and stability.
Cycling helps to strengthen the core muscles as it engages the muscles of the abdominals, back, and hips, providing a form of resistance training that can stimulate muscle growth and improve strength.
The endurance of the core muscles is also improved through the repeated motion of pedaling that requires the core muscles to contract and relax continuously, improving their ability to sustain effort for longer periods.
Flexibility is also improved within the core muscles as the seated position helps to stretch and lengthen the muscles of the back and hips, reducing the risk of injury and improving overall flexibility.
Overall, cycling is an excellent exercise for improving core stability, strength, endurance, and flexibility. By engaging the core muscles during cycling, you can build a strong and stable foundation for better overall fitness and improved athletic performance.
Benefits of increased core strength
Besides the visual improvements of a strong core, there are numerous health benefits attached to increased core strength
Here are a few common benefits;
Improved posture: A strong core helps to support good posture, which can reduce the risk of back pain and improve overall body alignment.
Improved posture has numerous health benefits, including:
- Reducing the stress on the muscles, ligaments, and joints of the back, reducing the risk of back pain and injury.
- Allowing the lungs to expand fully, improving breathing and oxygen uptake.
- Increasing energy levels as good posture improves blood flow and circulation, increasing energy levels and reducing fatigue.
- Improved digestion by promoting proper alignment of the digestive organs and reducing the risk of constipation.
- Reduced risk of joint pain by proper distribution of weight evenly across the joints, reducing the risk of joint pain and damage.
- Improved self-confidence and body image, as it conveys a sense of strength and confidence.
- Improved athletic performance by promoting better alignment and balance, which can improve technique and reduce the risk of injury.
Reduced risk of injury: A strong core can help to stabilize the spine and pelvis, reducing the risk of injury to the back and hips during physical activity.
Improved balance and stability: A strong core helps to improve balance and stability, which can be particularly beneficial for older adults or those with neurological conditions.
Improving balance and stability can have numerous health benefits, from reducing the risk of falls and injury to improving athletic performance, joint health, and cognitive function.
Improved athletic performance: A strong core is essential for many sports and physical activities, including running, jumping, and throwing. By improving core strength, athletes can improve their performance and reduce the risk of injury.
Improved athleticism has numerous health benefits, from reducing the risk of chronic diseases and depression to improving cardiovascular health, bone and joint health, cognitive function, and sleep.
Reduced risk of chronic diseases: A strong core can help to improve overall fitness, reducing the risk of chronic diseases. These are categorized as long-term conditions that can be difficult to manage and can significantly impact quality of life.
Some common chronic diseases include heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Reducing the risk of chronic diseases can improve overall health and well-being, from improving life expectancy and physical function to reducing healthcare costs and improving mental health and productivity.
Improved digestion: A strong core can help to improve digestion by promoting better blood flow to the digestive organs and reducing the risk of constipation.
Improved digestion can have numerous health benefits, from better nutrient absorption and improved energy levels to reduced risk of gastrointestinal problems, chronic diseases, and improved mental health.
Overall, cycling can be a highly effective way to improve leg and core strength, especially when performed regularly and at moderate to high intensity.
Additionally, incorporating hills or other resistance into your cycling workout can further challenge your leg and core muscles, leading to even greater gains in strength and endurance.