Four hidden benefits of cycling

Helps improve brain performance, boosts libido and combats depression

Matt Dawson's Cycling Workout

You might have seen a recent survey which found that people who cycle to work weigh an average of 5kg less than those who commute by car. While it doesn't take a genius to work out that doing more exercise is likely to make you slimmer, there some other, lesser-known, benefits to getting on your bike...

See also: Walking burns more calories than previously believed
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1. Keeps depression at bay
There is solid evidence that exercise can be beneficial for mental health – and particularly for staving off depression. And the link is best proven for exercise that takes place outdoors, in natural surroundings. It's not necessarily a guaranteed cure, but it is used by many sufferers of mild and moderate depression to "manage" their condition. And a 2013 review of 25 related studies in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggested that exercise can help prevent depression later in life, as well as alleviating it in the short term.

2. Keeps your brain healthy
Cycling is a great way to gain fitness and lose pounds, but scientists believe it can keep your grey matter in good shape too. Several studies have demonstrated that exercise such as riding a stationary bike can prompt an increase of a substance called "brain derived neurotrophic factor" – which is understood to play an important role in healthy brain functioning. It is also thought to help ward off certain neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

3. Boosts your libido
It's well established that exercise boosts libido – and gains in cardiovascular fitness could be as useful in the boudoir as they are out on your bike. A study of men in California found that those who worked out regularly had 30% more sex than those who did no exercise. And research published by the University of Texas in 2012 found that as little as 20 minutes of cycling could increase genital arousal in women – even when the nerves in the area had been subdued by the taking of antidepressants.

4. Helps you make better decisions
In addition to the brain benefits already mentioned, aerobic exercise supplies the brain with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to do its thing. One study found that judgement and mental agility was increased after 30 minutes of moderate pedalling in the morning – which sounds like a great argument for cycling to work, or taking a morning constitutional on your bike. Don't overdo it though, ride too hard and you'll use up your body's energy stores and end up feeling flat.

Three brilliant bargain bikes to buy:

Mekk Pinerolo AL SE 0.3 Tiagra (2016), £524.99

Vitus Bikes Sentier Hardtail Bike 2016, £699.99

Pinnacle Arkose 2 2016 Adventure Road Bike, £800.00

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