From snowboarding to hiking, canoeing to camping, my family loves outdoor activities. We are always outside. And like any active family, we tend to gravitate toward one pursuit or another. Our favorite has become biking, and May’s National Bike Month was the perfect time to join millions of cyclists nationwide in inspiring more people to ride.
But why stop pedaling when the month ends? After you get fit, you should stay fit. Whether you’re on the roads, mountains, or anywhere in between, biking has numerous health benefits that set this activity apart. Here are five advantages to cycling that other workouts don’t always offer.
To me, the biggest value in biking over, say, yoga or the elliptical machine, is the time spent with my family. Cycling can be so inclusive, and with a simple bike trailer, I was able to bring my developing family into my favorite sport. When you have kids, you make many sacrifices. But biking does not have to be one of them.
Not only does group biking add collaboration to an otherwise breezy workout, but you also instill a love of biking in your kids. “It’s what we always do,” I once heard my preschooler tell a friend about our bike outings. That’s a rewarding thing for any parent to hear.
A Better Workout
So cycling, you might say, is more beneficial when done outside relative to the average spin studio. Wind resistance may be a factor in certain sessions, but I enjoy thinking there’s more to it than that: We cycle longer distances when given the mental stimulation of visual surprises, like buildings, trees, birds, other bikers, and beautiful sunsets. We’re exposed to different smells and tactile stimuli, as well. Of course we also need to stay alert to stay safe, whereas our favorite gym facilitates the safety and familiarity that allows us to relax just a bit more.
Joint pain is no joke, and if you’ve ever had an injured knee or back, you know your joint health can determine your ability to stay active at all. Another way you can learn to appreciate your joint health is to live with or near someone with joint pain. The aches of someone older should be a great motivator to take care of your own precious parts, and switching to a low-impact workout can do just that.
You don’t need the motivation of Lewis or Clark to appreciate the sense of adventure that comes with the miles you put on your tires during a long tour from your driveway. Whenever you’re cycling a non-loop route, you eventually have to decide to turn around and head home. For me, the desire to know what’s around the next curve is too motivating; I’ve often cycled many miles further than I physically felt prepared to because my curiosity had gotten the better of me.
Will there be wildlife ahead? A scenic overlook? Another friendly biker? I’ve never been disappointed, only pleased by what I’ve found by continuing on. You may have experienced this, too. If not, a good bike and a quality trail can provide these lasting memories.
A Social Community
When you’re at a repeat company happy hour or another awkward playdate, all it takes is for someone to mention their recent bike ride for your interest to change. A barrage of questions flood your mind, and you notice another fellow rider perk up as well. Suddenly, you’re exchanging advice on gear, riding tips, challenges to going green, even intel on shops and good trails. There are few things more energizing than the discovery that you aren’t alone on the local trail; thousands of people have enjoyed the same route, and connecting over your experience is an indescribable sensation that other workout routines just can’t provide.
So, where does one start? With a busy lifestyle and young children in tow, biking may take a backseat. This month, however, I encourage you to recreate the National Bike Month Challenge as a no-pressure way of dabbling in what might be the most fun outdoor activity of them all.
Why does your family bike? What benefit is most valuable to you and your kids?
Image sources: Bethany Johnson
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.