You likely know cycling can be good for your health. On the flip side, many people are unsure about how this activity will change the shape and state of their bodies.
These changes range from potentially losing some body fat to feeling happier thanks to the extra endorphins. How long it takes to see results depends on what changes you focus on.
The mood improvements of cycling could come from an intense 5-minute stationary bike sprint. Something like losing weight takes some time and depends on other habits too.
1. You may lose some (belly) fat
A popular reason to start working out is feeling the need to lose some weight. Excess body fat has negative effects on overall health so activities that help people stay at a healthy weight are often helpful.
Since cycling, both indoor and outdoor, are likely more intense than your regular movements, they make it so you use more energy measured in calories.
A rough estimation is that a 155-pound person cycling at a moderate effort for 30 minutes can burn around 293 calories.
The exact number may look different for you due to differences in body weight, body composition, hormone levels, exact intensity, etc.
However, it becomes clear that cycling can help weight loss.
From what areas your body will burn up body fat depends on things like genetics and how far you are in your weight loss journey. That means cycling could also burn belly fat if your body decides that area is next.
Something you do want to keep in mind is that other lifestyle habits like nutrition still play a big role in weight loss. You could cycle a lot but not change your body weight if these other habits are suboptimal.
2. Cycling will make your leg muscles will last longer
One thing many women and men worry about is whether cycling will cause bulky legs. It is worth mentioning that this is generally not the case. Cycling typically does not challenge the leg muscles enough for this.
A potential exception is if you are not used to exercising, put your stationary bike on the highest resistance setting, and do a short sprint. This will not apply to most people.
And if cycling is not enough to take care of the muscle growth part of toning in your legs, it will also generally not do this for your arms, stomach, thighs, butt, etc.
That being said, cycling does still have the potential to change your muscles in other ways.
The main one is that leg muscles like your quadriceps (front thighs), glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thighs), and calves can get better endurance after a few cycling workouts.
In your daily life, this can make things like climbing stairs, walking, and just standing up easier and more comfortable.
3. Your heart can become stronger
Your heart is responsible for pumping blood around your body. More specifically, that means the heart transports important nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body.
Something that not everyone realizes is that you can influence how strong your heart is similar to other muscles.
By cycling, your body needs more nutrients, oxygen, and waste transport. In turn, your heart will beat faster. As long as you do this to a safe extent, give your body enough nutrition, and rest enough, this can strengthen your heart.
For example, endurance training options like cycling have the ability the lower your resting heart rate (1). A strong heart also leads to a wide variety of other benefits like reducing the risk of many diseases (2, 3, 4).
4. Cycling could improve balance and coordination
This next way cycling changes your body mostly applies to outdoor bikes. Indoor cycling bikes are just not as effective in this area.
Balance and coordination are skills that can be improved by challenging yourself in these areas to safe extents.
Even just regular cycling can change your body in these areas. However, other types of cycling like mountain biking and riding a BMX bike tend to be even more beneficial for these fitness components.
Better balance and coordination are not just helpful for your cycling workouts. In daily activities like walking up the stairs, these skills could reduce the risk of accidents.
5. You could feel happier
How good you feel does not only depend on the things going on “inside” your head. The health of your actual body and the processes going on there can change your mood.
The first way cycling helps in this area is that it just improves your overall health.
Lastly, you may also feel proud and satisfied about doing something that feels challenging in the moment but benefits your long-term health.
6. Cycling could make your body more resistant to injuries
Many parts of your body adapt to what kind of challenges you put them under. Three conditions are that you don’t overdo it, give your body enough nutrients, and give your body enough rest.
People who go from not exercising to slowly but surely increasing the time and intensity of their cycling sessions will not only notice the muscle endurance mentioned above.
Body parts like your joints and tends can also be strengthened. In the case of cycling, this will mostly apply to the legs.
In turn, stronger muscles, joints, and tendons can reduce your injury risk. Not just in your cycling sessions but also in your daily life.
7. You will get out of breath less often
The first effect of this is that cycling workouts that used to leave you out of breath may feel a lot easier.
Additionally, you may notice this change in lung capacity in your daily life. Climbing stairs will likely feel like less of a hassle (potentially even fun) and it will take longer for you to be out of breath.
One thing to note is that individuals who are already experienced with cardiovascular workouts may not experience these improvements to the same extent. There is still some biological limit to lung capacity.
Besides that, compared to something like walking, cycling will be great for improving lung capacity. At the same time, other intense cardiovascular workouts can also help in this area.