Cyclists are onto something. Study after study has shown that those who cycle have an edge over those who don't.

Both male and female cyclists live anywhere from two to five years longer than their non-cycling counterparts. More than that, cyclists who ride at least 30 miles per week are less likely to die from cancer, and cycling for three hours each week might even lower the risk of all-cause mortality by 28%, according to one study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

So why isn't everyone doing it?

The Barriers to Cycling

Cycling is not an entirely easy sport to take up. As beneficial as it is to long-term health, cycling isn’t as accessible as some other athletic ventures.

To start, cyclists have to have the proper equipment, and it can be costly; the price tag on a bicycle can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. In addition to the bicycle itself, there is the additional gear required. Just five years ago, it cost bicycle enthusiasts an average of $1,659 to buy all of their equipment — and that's on top of the bike itself. If someone is used to a local gym membership or an $80 pair of walking shoes, that figure can be understandably daunting.

People also have to learn about when and where to cycle, logistics that can be simple to determine with other fitness ventures. When someone wants to hike, he finds a trail. When someone wants to lift weights, she finds a gym to join. The safest routes for cycling, however, aren’t something most people inherently know.

But while the high barrier to entry can be off-putting, it’s also part of the reason cycling has such positive impacts on health. The mental dedication required to excel as a cyclist is similar to the mental dedication required to make consistent, healthy lifestyle choices, which might explain why cyclists experience compounded health benefits. It takes longer to determine how to navigate the sport, making cyclists less likely to give up because of the required time, dedication and practice they put in.

Why the Barriers Are Worth It

Cycling requires full devotion. Here's why it's worth it:

1. Cycling is good for joints.

Low- to no-impact training can benefit joint health in the long run. It doesn't involve any aggressive, dynamic movements, and the repeated pedaling motions on a properly fitted bicycle strengthen rather than damage joints. On the other hand, activities like running do the opposite. Stronger joints mean fewer injuries and more mobility, a concern that becomes more serious as people age.

2. Cycling has cardio benefits.

Cycling is a great cardiovascular workout. Cardio reduces bad cholesterol and blood pressure while decreasing the risk for heart disease, obesity and cancer mortality. What happens in the body as a result of cardio and the direct benefit of it is really just beginning to be quantified; there's no telling what additional benefits might come to light in the future.

3. Cycling boosts health literacy.

The investment cyclists have to make in their gear mirrors the investment they make in their personal health, too. As previously stated, cycling isn't the cheapest sport, but when people invest in and commit to the practice, they also commit to a learning process that will likely lead to a healthier lifestyle. As people discover how to be cyclists with great performance and endurance, they learn about how smaller daily choices affect the body, too.

4. Cycling can increase your awareness of your body's mechanics.

When people first break into cycling, they have to learn the actual mechanics of cycling, such as how the derailleur works, how brake lines thread down a stem, or how shifting gears increases or decreases the resistance necessary to make it up a hill. It's not unlike understanding how an IT band works or how the spine connects to the neck and shoulders. Knowing the bike is like knowing the body.

The more cyclists come to understand their bikes, the more similarities can be seen in the mechanics of their own physical makeups. When people internalize that mindset, the cause-and-effect nature of their daily health choices become more obvious as well. For instance, they'll see how what they eat, whether they stretch or the quality of their sleep can dramatically affect their bodies from day to day. Using what they know about their health to make healthy decisions is the very definition of health literacy. The more people know, the more they thrive.

Roughly 47.5 million Americans considered themselves cyclists as of 2017. It might be time for you to join the pack.

Author's Bio: 

Munjal Shah is the co-founder and CEO of Health IQ, a life insurance agency that rewards people with healthy lifestyles, like cyclists, runners, weightlifters and vegetarians. After working as a technology entrepreneur for the first part of his career, he started Health IQ to improve the health of the world by celebrating those who practice healthy lifestyles.