We know exercise builds neurons and increases longevity, but are some types of exercise better than others for cyclists?
Several studies have revealed a number of benefits of endurance training. The National Academy of Sports Medicine lists the following benefits for endurance cycling:
Specifically, endurance training increases the size and strength in your muscles (slow-twitch fibres). The boost in the efficiency of oxygen use allows more fuel (called ATP) generation allowing the muscle more continuous and extended contractions over a long time. This translates into greater mechanical efficiency.
Slow-twitch muscles also retain a greater ability to oxidise fat. More endurance training = more slow-twitch muscle = more burning of body fat as fuel and less use of other fuel sources like glycogen and body sugar (glucose).
This ultimately leads to decreased lactate production during exercise. Hence, improving performance in training.
This means more oxygen is absorbed from the circulating blood. Frequently in sports studies this is measured as VO2max or Maximum Oxygen Uptake. So, as endurance cycling increases your VO2max, you’ll gain better cardiorespiratory fitness.
Mitochondria is a muscle cell structures that makes ATP or energy. The more mitochondria you gain through endurance training, the more efficient your muscle production of energy will be.
Stroke volume is the amount of blood each beat of the heart can pump. In effect, more oxygen goes to your working muscles per heartbeat, achieving greater muscle work.
Improves temperature regulation and increase respiratory endurance
Researchers from the Academy of Finland wanted to find out what kind of exercises provide the best workout for the brain. This seven-week study divided rat groups into 3 sets of exercises: endurance training, weight training, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Another rat group remained sedentary was used as a control.
The rats’ hippocampus, part of the brain, was then biopsied to see if there was an increase in neuronal production. They found that the endurance training group had the most amount of new neurons versus groups that had HIIT and weight training. In fact (even worse), the group that had weight training had the same amount of new neurons as the group that did nothing at all (control/sedentary).
Seems clear to us that endurance exercise is of greater benefit than interval or weight training!
So cycle longer (though not necessarily harder) and live better!