Biking is getting a second wind as a popular exercise.
What's not to love about it?
It reduces air pollution, traffic congestion and the slew of other health problems associated with our mostly sedentary lifestyles. (I'm typing this slouched over a desk as we speak.)
More and more governments are taking the hint and working to encourage their residents to bike more.
Bike-sharing programs, investments in bike lanes and tax benefits for bike owners are all some of the efforts being implemented to encourage us to embrace the healthy habit.
Best of all, this means you can work out while you run errands. This is pretty much impossible any other way.
But the fact is this: The US lags far behind other developed countries.
The percentage of Americans adults who rode a bike more than six times in the last year is 24 percent.
Here are 15 reasons why that number should be a lot higher than it currently is:
1. Toughen up your heart.
Cardiovascular disease is rampant in the US and many other countries.
Cardio exercise, like biking, is a great way to improve your chances of avoiding it.
Even short trips of 10 minutes or so can help prevent heart disease.
Pedal along, and by the time you’re home, you will have already finished getting your blood pumping.
Your heart will be feeling better for it.
2. Live longer.
Since you’re working toward decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease, you should know cycling helps cut down on other risks, too.
Basically, if there’s a disease that can kill you, cycling is going to decrease your risk of getting it.
That includes diabetes, certain kinds of cancer, asthma and obesity.
3. Sleep better.
Exercise is the key to sleeping better and banishing insomnia.
Biking takes you outside and gets you in the sun.
That light is what helps you set your circadian rhythm, which tells you when to go to bed. Along those same lines, exercise helps to tire you out.
No matter how much you work your brain, your body still needs some exercise in order to get tired.
Give it some.
4. Reduce stress.
Biking is a great way to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone.
As you see that stress level go down, you start to keep it down.
When you’re perpetually stressed out, you don’t often give yourself time to recover. You keep plugging away, letting the stress pile up until you burn out.
By biking, you can actually reset your stress levels and feel better for longer.
5. Feel good.
So, with all the sleep and stress reduction, is there any way you could possibly feel better?
A runner’s high is often cited as an amazing feeling you get when you’ve pushed yourself hard enough to get an extra push of endorphins.
The result is a burst of euphoria, and you can also get that from cycling.
6. Amp up for work.
Want your work performance to look a little better? Cycling is the way to go.
It’s better and lasts longer than a cup of coffee.
Instead of just helping you do stupid things faster, it helps you do smart things the right way.
When you hit that midday slump, take a break and go for a ride.
You’ll come back ready to play in the big leagues.
7. Look younger.
Now, biking won’t have the same reversal effects as Botox or plastic surgery, but it can slow the aging process.
It reduces the prevalence of free radicals, which are responsible for the aging process.
The only issue is sun exposure. But if you remember to wear sunscreen, you can stay looking young(er) forever.
8. Boost your brain.
Giving yourself a boost by biking to work is a great way to start your day.
Getting your blood flowing allows the oxygen to pour in, and that includes to your brain.
It also — in a weird turn of events — help promote the growth of new brain cells.
Biking can literally make you smarter, which I’m sure your boss would appreciate.
9. Get sick less.
Cycling has the same immune system benefits as other exercises, with the addition of some deep breathing meditations.
This comes from the ideas that deep breathing helps to flush out viruses and bacteria, increased heart rate gets your white blood cells moving around and exposure to new environments promotes new antibody growth.
Your doctor might start wondering where you’ve gone.
10. Get more sexy time.
Remember how we talked about increased blood flow to the brain?
Well, that applies everywhere.
When you have more blood flowing to your nether regions, you’re more likely to want to get physical.
Plus, you’ll be up for the challenge, since you'll be feeling all sexy after working out so much.
11. Save some cash.
How much do cars cost compared to bikes? Well, quite a bit, actually.
They’re expensive to buy, maintain and fix.
That might be why some US cities like NYC and DC have seen huge increases in the percentage of people biking recently.
There’s no reason not to save when you can ride a bike instead of a car.
12. Say goodbye to traffic jams.
You can wave goodbye to the traffic jams as you pedal past them.
Just try to be discreet, or someone might decide to take his or her road rage out on you.
Bikes go where cars can’t, so if there’s an accident the police have blocked off, you can go around by hopping off and walking through someone’s yard.
13. You get to save the planet (a little).
Bikes run on a totally renewable resource: you.
You aren’t burning fossil fuels or emitting carbon dioxide. You’re saving the planet (at least a little).
Spread the word because people do actually need to take action to make the planet a little healthier.
14. You can fix your own ride.
Cars are just giant computers. Bikes aren’t.
Bike repair involves relatively simple mechanics you can do yourself, or with the help of a YouTube video or two.
There’s a simple pleasure in being able to fix things, and you get to get your hands dirty.
15. It’s an adventure.
We rarely ever have adventures.
While biking, you get to take new paths, see new things and battle the weather.
Drivers are no longer the only danger. Now, you encounter strange dogs, cats and unexpected falls.
It might not always be great fun, but it will always be an adventure.