Then, once you actually start riding, make sure your foot stays flat (don’t point your toes down), says Pebbles. Keep good posture by thinking about maintaining a neutral spine with your shoulders pulled back and down. And make sure you sit back into your legs, keeping the weight back in them, instead of leaning into your handlebars, says Qayed.
Important caveat: Even with all these tips, cycling for the first time is likely going to feel awkward, says Pebbles. Moreover, your butt will probably be sore afterwards, notes Qayed. That does not mean you had bad form; it’s likely simply because the shape of a bike seat takes some getting used to, which can take a few days or even a couple weeks.
But do not let these factors deter you from coming back. Pebbles suggests trying cycling three times before deciding whether or not it’s right for you. In that time, you’ll likely start to feel more comfortable on the bike and that sore butt sensation will (hopefully) subside.
However, if after three tries you’re still not digging cycling, “find something that you love,” says Qayed. Remember: The “best” type of exercise is the one you genuinely enjoy doing and are thus likely to stick with.
Physical benefits of cycling
There are lots of physical benefits of cycling that can make it a great choice to your fitness routine.
1. Improved cardiovascular health
As mentioned, cycling is a great form of cardio. A 2019 review published in the journal Medicine concluded indoor cycling may improve aerobic capacity, or your cardiovascular system’s ability to provide oxygen to your working muscles and use it efficiently. And you do not need to pedal for hours to reap benefits: Even just 10 minutes of cycling a day can boost your fitness level, according to the Mayo Clinic.
What’s more, many cycling classes incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT), a type of exercise that involves performing bursts of work at max effort followed by short periods of rest. In addition to improving your heart functioning, HIIT can also increase your VO2 max (how much oxygen you can use during exercise) and improve your blood pressure and insulin sensitivity (how responsive your cells are to insulin), according to a 2017 review published in the journal Sports Medicine.
2. Low-impact exercise
Cycling can be a great alternative to high-impact cardio workouts, like running or bodyweight HIIT classes (which tend to involve jumping), because it’s gentle on your joints, tendons, and ligaments. This could make it a good option for people who want an intense workout that’s easy on their skeletal system. So whether you are rehabbing an injury, or just looking to introduce more low-impact activities into your routine, cycling could be your solution. (Of course, if you have a history of injury or pain, check with your doctor first before you start cycling to make sure it’s a safe activity for you.)
3. Lower-body strengthening
It’s no shocker that cycling is great for your lower-half. Your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves are all activated when you pedal, and by dialing up the resistance on your bike, you can increase the strength challenge on these muscles. According to a 2015 review, cycling can build muscle and strength, though it’s likely not as effective at doing so as resistance training, and may require a longer training period to achieve that.
4. Core strengthening
Your legs aren’t the only powerhouses in cycling. “The unsung hero of cycling classes is the back and core,” says Qayed, explaining that proper cycling form involves engaging the muscles in your torso so you do not hunch over the handlebars. Cycle often enough and you’ll likely feel these muscles get stronger.
5. Improved posture
Cycling “definitely can help with posture,” says Qayed—if you practice good form, which, as we mentioned, means sitting tall with a neutral spine (not arched or rounded) and pulling your shoulders down and back (not hunching them up by your ears). By practicing solid posture when cycling, you can help counteract the poor posture many of us fall into with our sedentary work routines.
6. Better coordination
Many modern cycling classes are rhythm-based, meaning you pedal along and perform choreography to a beat. With this type of riding, “coordination is huge,” says Qayed, who notes her own coordination abilities have improved dramatically in the decade or so since she started doing rhythm-based cycling.
7. Reduced risk of diseases
Like other forms of exercise, cycling regularly is linked to reduced risk of certain diseases and conditions, according to a wide variety of research. A 2017 study, for example, found that biking to work was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature death. And a 2016 study of Danish adults found that commuter and recreational cycling was consistently associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Mental benefits of cycling
The benefits of cycling are not just physical — they can provide a mental boost to your day too.
1. A mood boost
Many cycling classes — with their hyped-up music, darkened rooms, and motivational pep talks — definitely have a vibe. And pretty darn frequently that vibe can do wonders for your mood. Because, let’s be honest, it’s hard not to smile when you’s sweating it out in a dance-club-like atmosphere.