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Bicycle Year Round? The Surprising Benefits of Cold-Weather Cycling!

woman riding bike on a chilly fall day for health benefits

Don’t hang up that bicycle just yet. In fact, don’t put it away at all if you want to be healthy

Cycling in cold weather provides many benefits to both our mental and physical health.

Growing up, my family owned a bike shop, and cycling year-round was a way of life. I never gave any thought to all the health benefits I was getting from riding my bike. Then as I got older and began driving everywhere, my favorite Schwinn ten-speed began to gather dust.

Why drive when you can ride a bike? 

Today, cyclists of all ages are taking to the streets and paths around the state. Some use it for transportation, others for enjoyment, and some for health benefits. And a few have it all figured out and are cycling for a combination of the three. 

I recently talked with cycling advocate Professor Harvey J. Miller of The Ohio State University about his enthusiasm for cycling.

“I ride most of the year. I usually don’t ride when the streets are icy. On those days, I walk or use COTA. The cold or rain doesn’t bother me – a warm coat or rain gear is much cheaper than a car.” When asked what drove his passion, he said, “Exercise, fun, saving the planet, and automobiles are a very risky way to travel.”

Snow is on the ground and trees while two people are bicycling through town on a clear path

Health benefits of cycling in cooler climates

Ohio’s winter can be brutal. But it often is also sunny, mild and quite beautiful. Being active outdoors is vital to sustaining a healthy lifestyle while improving mental health during the shorter days of fall and winter.  

According to U of L Health, workouts, such as cycling in cold weather, benefits our overall health.

Twelve cold-weather cycling benefits that will get you on the right path to a more sustaining and enjoyable life. 

  1. Less Crowded: Many popular biking routes and trails are less crowded during the colder months, providing a more peaceful and enjoyable experience.
  1. Different Scenery: The changing leaves in fall and snow-covered landscapes in winter offer unique and beautiful scenery, making cycling a visually rewarding activity during these seasons.
  2. Burn Calories: Cycling is an effective way to burn calories and can help manage or reduce weight, which can be particularly beneficial given the temptation of rich and tempting holiday foods.
  3. Boost Immune System: Regular moderate-intensity exercise like cycling can boost the immune system, especially during cold and flu season.
  4. Mental Health Benefits: Outdoor activities in the presence of natural light can help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression typically occurring in the fall and winter.
  5. Improved Mood and Reduced Stress: Exercise releases endorphins, which can help improve mood, reduce stress, and combat anxiety.
  6. Builds Endurance: Cycling in colder weather requires more effort and energy, which can help build endurance and improve fitness levels.
  7. Lower Impact on Joints: Cycling is a low-impact exercise that can be easier on the joints than on high-impact activities like running, especially on slippery or icy surfaces.
  8. Environmental Benefits: Cycling is an environmentally friendly mode of transportation that reduces carbon emissions and is essential year-round.
  9. Increased Metabolic Rate: Exercising in cold weather can increase your metabolic rate as your body works harder to maintain your core temperature.
  10. Social Connection: Participating in group rides or joining a cycling club can provide a sense of community and social connection, which can be particularly valuable during the colder, more isolating months.
  11. Variety in Workout Routine: Adding cycling to your workout routine can add variety and prevent boredom, vital for maintaining a consistent exercise regimen.
Man enjoying cold weather cycling over bed of fallen leaves

Staying safe on your bike

Remember, if you choose to cycle during fall and winter, it’s essential to wear appropriate clothing to stay warm, wear a helmet, use lights and reflectors to be visible, and take extra precautions on slippery or icy roads. Regular bike maintenance is also crucial to ensure safety.

Have you been out on your bike in the cooler months? If so, please share a place you like to ride, and for more information on some trails that might be near you, read Bike Summit Metro Parks

Don’t let the cool weather keep you from enjoying our beautiful outdoors. 

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