Why we cycle? Benefits of cycling every day, even in winter
Winter tends to keep us indoors a bit too much, making it hard to maintain great physical and mental health. Nothing boosts well-being better than staying on the bike throughout the year.
Just look at the rosy cheeks and sense the bouncing energy of those who arrive at the office on a bike — and the health benefits of off-season cycling become obvious. And bear in mind it’s not only the physical form and immune system which gets a boost with cycling in any weather. The benefits of mental health are just as big.
Cycling benefits won’t stop with the cold
We talked to four year-round riders to get a better sense of what makes them hop on a bike and cycle every day, even in rain and cold temperatures.
All the winter cyclists agreed on one thing: riding a bike in winter is just as fun as it is the rest of the year.
“If I compare cycling on different seasons, then winter cycling is better as it does not make me sweat as I do in summer!”
But mostly it’s about cycling always being fun and healthy, and winter absolutely does not ruin it. It doesn’t require much specific effort to sit on a bike despite bad weather if you know the benefits of cycling and are simply used to doing it daily.
Let the daily rider and bike enthusiast Juho explain: “Cycling in a city is my preferred way of getting around at any season because of three main reasons:
- Speed, in spite of relaxed cycling. You can get through anywhere. When driving a car, you can speed for a hundred meters, but then you reach the red traffic light, you stop, and the cyclist is next to you, just like by the previous traffic light.
- Not worrying about parking: any light post provides safe parking. Also: traffic jams, the most nerve-wracking phenomenon of humankind, do not exist for cyclists. I don’t need to plan my trips avoiding the rush hours: I simply grab my bike and go!
- Physical activity is a significant benefit. There is a great difference in riding a bike every morning, instead of sitting in the car in between lying in bed and sitting in the office. Walking to work is great too, but bicycles win when it comes to speed and cardio activity. If we also had fresh air on the streets, that would be top-notch! But that depends on how many of us commute to work on foot or on bikes.
Time saved through daily cycling
The athletic aspect is definitely a plus for many all-year cyclers. In our speedy world, it is hard to find time for all important elements that need to fit into a day, thus it is great to get two things done at the same time, while also enjoying it.
“I get my training done while commuting,” says Tuuli, Ampler’s Head of Communications, who cycles to work both in Berlin and Tallinn.
“After commuting to work by bicycle I do not need to worry about taking a hearty lunch if I feel like that.”
The immune system improved by cycling
Even if relaxed commuting does not have to become a sport, especially with an e-bike, it still burns some calories and stimulates the heart and muscles. The outdoor movement certainly boosts our immune system and keeps the doctor away even during virus seasons.
»Over the last three years, while I lived in Berlin and used my bike every day, I was never sick, not even once.«
Research shows that cycling’s health benefits include chronic disease prevention and the reduction of risk factors such as elevated blood pressure and obesity. Many studies have identified active commuting as helpful against cardiovascular deaths.
Mental health benefits of cycling
But mental health seems to be affected even more by winter cycling.
“It’s a great kick-starter for the day,” says Hagen, Ampler’s SEO manager in Berlin.
»That’s what I like about cycling: when you arrive somewhere, you are active and fresh, your mind is awake. For me it is all about flexibility, not being dependent on the trams which might have stopped going for today — and about remaining active.«
“Cycling is great for the mind, you are in a constant smooth movement, not having to worry much about traffic, parking, or others,” explains Ott, Ampler’s Head of Marketing. He and all the other cyclists we talked to praised the opportunity to tune yourself to the right mood while commuting on a bike.
»While cycling to work I can gradually start thinking about what I need to do today, and cycling back I have time to tune out of work thanks to the movement. When I reach home I am much less stressed.«
Daily bike ride as a meditation
Tuuli agrees, comparing her commute to work with her Curt to a “little morning meditation”, which clears the head, even if the bike ride is accompanied by listening to a podcast or an audiobook.
“Sometimes you wake up in a bad or stressed mood. The process of sitting on the bike and riding off even with ugly weather has such a healing effect, the daily worries do not distract me so much. If for some reason I have not been able to cycle for a week, I feel nervous”, refers Tuuli.
Scientists prove that these two can be linked: research has shown that daily cycling can help to prevent or treat anxiety or depression – something that tends to intensify during the colder and darker seasons. Cycling is also reported to increase the level of subjective well-being.
Winter cycling is a growing trend
All three brave year-round cyclists from the Ampler team — Tuuli, Ott, and Hagen — agree that if rain is pouring, they might skip cycling this one day, as it is simply not pleasant. But cold is definitely not a problem with the right clothes. A little rain is fine too, giving you the feeling of being a hero, says Tuuli.
One might think that with the current coronavirus restrictions there is less cycling as no commuting is needed to the home office. But this does not need to be true. Hagen explains that among his friends’ cycling has now turned into an activity in itself, instead of a means of transport to go somewhere.
Bike lovers of Berlin get together on weekends, longtime cyclists and new ones alike, and discover the city on long bike trips. And as long as it is not raining cats and dogs – who cares about the weather!