Being Well: My Health Benefits from Cycling

 | Gail Rehbein
| Gail Rehbein

Being Well: The Many Benefits from Cycling

What happens when you trade in motor transport for a bike? Gail Rehbein investigates this notion in what she calls 'the Great Experiment'. In this special guest feature, she shares how her wellbeing and fitness have been transformed after 11 months of prioritising cycling over using the car. 
Gail is a bicycle-riding writer who loves to share stories, information, and inspiration about life seen from two wheels on Australia's Gold Coast and beyond. You can find her work at her website A Bike 4 All Seasons. She is also an ambassador of Bicycle Queensland.
Gail from A Bike 4 All Seasons

Being Well

During these past eleven months, I’ve pedalled more kilometres and spent more hours riding than any other year in my life. It’s caused a significant increase in my level of physical exercise. So, with that, you’d think I should be fitter, stronger and healthier. And I am! … but even more than I’d expected.

When I began thinking about this experiment in November and what it might mean for me, I realised it carried several motivations. One was to save some money. Another was to make me fitter. I had no specific goal for either. I just knew that both would be likely outcomes and I’d enjoy them. They would be of value to me.

So it’s now a wonderful surprise to notice how my well-being has changed over the year. You see I wasn’t paying attention at first to changes in my fitness. That’s because I was so focused on making the change to ride my bicycle instead of taking the car. Now that this choice is normal for me, I’m noticing. And this is what happened:
My bicycle riding became incidental exercise.

Incidental exercise is the type that happens as we go about our living – walking around the shops, cleaning, gardening, using stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. In my case, it’s been riding my bicycle as transport.

And this is what I’ve noticed:
  • Riding uphill is easier – I’m less puffed and less daunted when facing a hill climb
  • My legs are more toned; they feel stronger. I can carry larger loads in my panniers.
  • My mind becomes clearer after a bike ride.
  • I sleep better – ahhh 💤💤 🙂
  • I have more energy and feel more physically capable.
  • BUT I’ve also noticed that with more riding, different muscles tighten.

My shoulder (trapezius) muscles were tightening and that wasn’t good. I’m told this is a common issue for bicycle riders. So with some help from the bike mechanics at Mikes Bikes, the position of my bike’s seat and handlebars have been adjusted to make my riding position more upright. And I’m remembering to relax my shoulders while riding.

As well, a few twinges crept into my knee. After a visit to my physiotherapist at Ridiculously Well (how could you not feel better 🙂), I learnt that my thigh muscles (quadriceps) which play a key role in stabilising the knee, had shortened. This is also common amongst bicycle riders. It was easily remedied with some stretches – which for me, centre around some regular yoga poses to lengthen those muscles.
Cycling along the bike path |  <i>Bruce Baker</i>
So it seems all this pedalling has led me somewhere better…

As this year-long experiment has progressed, being well has become easier because my exercise is incidental to living. I love that. It makes me even happier.

Finally, I want to share with you a neat infographic*. It begins with USA-specific statistics about cycling participation and then you’ll see HEALTH BENEFITS and what happens when your body is biking.

It helps me understand what might be behind my ‘somewhere better’.
Cycling Health Infographic

About the author

Gail from A Bike 4 All Seasons
Gail loves to write stories about interesting people, places to travel and the unexpected events that life brings. They’re stories of life as she pedals by bicycle through the seasons on Australia's Gold Coast and beyond. Note this article was originally published in 2015.
>> Read more of Gail's great blog entries and more at her website: A Bike 4 All Seasons.
Want to contribute a travel tale? We'd love to hear it. Get in touch or read more information here.
Would you consider trading in the car for a bike? How do you think you would go? Let us know in the comment section.   


Comment (0)

Your comment will be visible after the administrator's approval.

b i u quote

Save Comment
Join Newsletter
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/ADS.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Adventures South"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Adventure South</div>
Adventure South NZ is unrivalled in their geographic coverage, originality and overall quality of adventures holidays in New Zealand. Choose from walking, cycling, winter or multi-activity holidays, on either the North or South Island.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/AWH.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Australian Walking Holidays"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Australian Walking Holidays</div>
Australian Walking Holidays specialises in small group guided walking adventures. Since 1982 we have been guiding small groups of travellers on Australia's finest walks across our tropical, coastal or red centre landscapes.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/GCT.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Great Canadian Trails"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Great Canadian Trails</div>
Great Canadian Trails specialises in active holidays in Canada. With both guided and supported self-guided options available, our unique itineraries draw upon some of Canada's most inspiring parks, trails and landscapes from coast to coast.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/HUM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Humac Challenge"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Huma Charity Challenge</div>
Huma enables those with adventurous spirits to challenge themselves and make a difference for a cause close to their heart. Travel, fundraise and meet life-long friends on one of Huma's meaningful and unique challenges around the world.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WB.jpg?v2' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Walkers’ Britain"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Walkers' Britain</div>
Walkers' Britain (formerly Sherpa Expeditions) have specialised in walking and cycling trips in the United Kingdom and Europe since 1973. Explore iconic trails and destinations on a self guided or small group active holiday with Walkers' Britain.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WB.jpg?v2' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Walkers’ Britain"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Walkers' Britain</div>
Walkers' Britain (formerly Sherpa Expeditions) have specialised in walking and cycling trips in the United Kingdom and Europe since 1973. Explore iconic trails and destinations on a self guided or small group active holiday with Walkers' Britain.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TAS.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Tasmania Expeditions"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Tasmanian Expeditions</div>
Tasmanian Expeditions is the most experienced operator of treks and adventure travel holidays in Tasmania. We own and operate the most comprehensive range of adventure holidays available across Tasmania's varied landscapes.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/UTX-new.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Utracks"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>UTracks</div>
UTracks are the active European holiday specialists. Whether you prefer cycling or walking, 2-star or 4-star, small groups or self guided, land, river or sea – UTracks can help you to explore Europe exactly the way you want.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WYA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions Schools"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions Schools</div>
World Expeditions Schools is our specialist division dedicated to organising tailor made overseas school group adventures. Specialists in Service Learning projects, choose from more destinations than any other school group provider.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/YOM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Yomads"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Yomads</div>
Yomads offers adventures for the 20s and 30s on six continents. Designed as a way to bring young and likeminded travellers together, Yomads caters to those interested in lightly structured and active trips that allow freedom to roam and explore.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/ACT.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Australian Cycle Tours"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Australian Cycle Tours</div>
Australian Cycle Tours specialises in high quality self guided and guided cycling experiences in a selection of the most beautiful regions in Australia.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WEX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions</div>
The pioneers of original, worldwide adventure travel holidays since 1975
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TJX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Trail Journeys"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Trail Journeys</div>
Self-guided cycling experts on New Zealand's Otago Rail Trail and more
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/BMAC.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Blue Mountains Adventure Company"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Blue Mountains Adventure Company</div>
The original Blue Mountains canyoning, hiking, climbing and abseiling experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/GWNZ.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Great Walks of New Zealand"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Great Walks of New Zealand</div>
Explore New Zealand's most spectacular wilderness regions with the self-guided hiking experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/NAA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="North America Active"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>North America Active</div>
USA Canada hiking & cycling tour specialists, choose from self-guided or guided trips