You don’t have to do a century for a ride to “count.” Even a little bit of riding each day can make a big difference in your life.
For most, kitting up for hours of riding every day might seem like an unattainable dream. Clocking serious mileage every day does require commitment, but a daily bike ride itself is not only very feasible, but it can also positively affect your life.
If you’re not ready to commit to riding every day for forever, try completing a short-term ride streak first—it’s easier to start a habit by chipping away at smaller goals. That way, you might prove to yourself what’s possible. Need extra convincing? Here are five life-changing benefits of cycling every day, no matter how much time or energy you have for a bike ride.
1. A More Enjoyable Commute
If you want to go on a bike ride every day but are strapped for time, one of the most logical ways to fit it into your schedule is making it part of your commute. “Cycling can be easily integrated into daily life, unlike gym workouts,” says Nick Cavill, a public health consultant and director for the former Cycling England, a project in the U.K. that promoted the many benefits of cycling.
also offers very real health benefits, without requiring you to go out of your way to exercise, but the perks of getting around on two wheels go beyond avoiding traffic and living more healthfully. Commuting by car has been linked to weight gain and obesity, even in drivers who make time for exercise. Women who commute by walking or biking at least 30 minutes each day also were found to have a decreased risk of breast cancer.
2. A Sharper Mind
Once you’re in the habit of getting to work by bike, you’ll be better prepared for what comes next, such as opting for your bike over your car to run a quick errand on the weekend or riding to the gym. Daily exercise has been found to increase energy and reduce fatigue. Even a single 30-minute bout of exercise can improve reaction time, memory, and creative thinking.
3. Less Overeating
Regular cycling also helps you relax a little about what you eat and maintain your weight—sort of. An easy spin isn’t exactly a green light to grab two extra donuts, but a bike ride every day can help you loosen up on restricting your diet. In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Bath, two groups of men massively overate—but only one group exercised daily. Despite consuming the same surplus amount of calories, after taking into account what was burned off with exercise, the group that worked out daily managed to offset the ill effects of overeating, like blood sugar spikes and unhealthy metabolic changes.
4. Better Quality of Sleep
With all our modern-day stresses compounded with an exorbitant amount of screen time, disconnecting and falling asleep is tougher than ever these days. But external stimuli aside, a study from the University of Georgia found a link between cardiorespiratory fitness and sleep patterns. The study included over 8,000 subjects ranging from age 20 to 85, and discovered a strong correlation between a decrease in fitness and the inability to fall asleep and general sleep complaints.
Translation: Moderate to vigorous cardiovascular activities like cycling were shown to boost fitness, therefore making it easier to fall and stay asleep. This may sound obvious to anyone who’s pedaled a bike and experienced the post-ride combo of exhaustion and soreness (with some endorphins sprinkled in), but now the science is there to prove it.
5. A Longer Life
Daily bike rides do more than make you healthier and happier: They also extend the amount of time you have to feel that way, even if you’re already creeping up in years. A large study from 2015 in Norway followed a group of elderly men in their 70s and 80s and found that just 30 minutes of exercise per day resulted in those men living up to five years longer, compared to men who didn’t do any physical activity. Another study from 2011 in Taiwan, which asked over 400,000 adults how much they exercised and tracked those answers over eight years, found that just 15 minutes of exercise each day correlated with a three-year increase in life expectancy. None of these people were young and most weren’t incredibly athletic when they started the study, so it’s never too late to start!