Cycling Fitness: Cycling for Beginners
Bike Your Butt Off!
Whether you're longing for the open road or lusting after a new cycling class, our guide will get you rolling to a fit, hot body
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Your New Favorite Cardio Workout
Once upon a time, exercising wasn't a chore. Remember it? Back when you were a kid, hopping on a two-wheeler wasn't a way to burn off last night's ice cream cone—it was fun. Today, many women are rekindling that childhood love by pedaling to work, competing in races, or just tooling around town. They're finding that biking isn't just a welcome break from mind-numbing elliptical sessions: It's a surefire way to slim down and tone your tush-—and look smokin' in those spandex shorts.
Video: Tone up anywhere, anytime
"In the past five years, an unprecedented number of women's cycling clubs have cropped up throughout the country," says Rachael Lambert, women's product and marketing manager at Specialized Bicycle Components in Morgan Hill, California. Part of that surge may be due to a sour economy (a bike is cheaper than a car or a gym membership). Another factor is the popularity of triathlons: Women's participation has soared 700 percent (no, that's not a misprint!) in the past 10 years. Toss in the fact that biking is one of the most efficient and effective workouts—both on the open road and in a class—and it's easy to see why this fitness staple is gaining speed.
Cycling is no doubt good for your body, says Anne Lusk, PhD, a research associate at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. She studied more than 18,000 women over a period of 16 years and found that those who biked as few as five minutes a day gained less weight than those who didn't ride. That's because even a casual ride delivers a one-two punch of cardio and muscle strengthening. A 135-pound woman can blast nearly 500 calories in an hour of cycling at a comfortable clip. And each pedal stroke works your entire lower body and your core, sculpting a tight body.
"I love getting women on bikes," says mountain-bike world champ Rebecca Rusch, who introduces women to the sport at her SRAM Gold Rusch Tour events. "They get the toned thighs, carved calves, and tight butt they want while doing an activity that's so freeing, fun, and social. They don't want to stop."
It's also a natural pick-me-up. Surveys in the Netherlands show that there is a huge amount of joy linked with riding, says Lusk. The carefree feeling you get from flying down a hill makes it hard not to smile. Not a road warrior? No worries. A study found that just 10 minutes of indoor cycling can improve your mood and energy level.
You don't feel good just during your ride, either.
"Because it's a low-impact exercise, your hips and knees are strengthened, not stressed, so you feel better and less beat up after a ride compared with running," says Lusk. That makes it a lifelong activity. Make it one, and you may just have a few more years to enjoy it: On average, cyclists live two years longer than nonbikers and take 15 percent fewer sick days.
A hotter, healthier body and a longer, happier life? Time to make your childhood sidekick your new best friend.