Cycling is a great form of low-impact exercise.

Does Using the Bicycle Help Your Legs?

by Jim Thomas

If you want to show off strong and sleek legs, put the pedal to the metal. Riding a bike, either in the form of an outdoor or a stationary bike, helps your legs in a number of ways. It strengthens them by building muscles in both your upper and lower legs. And despite claims that bike riding gives you bulky muscles or big thighs, "Shape" magazine says such notions are untrue. In fact, biking helps develop legs that are not only strong but sleek and shapely as well.

1. Leg Strength

Your muscles are made up of thousands of thin fibers that resemble spaghetti. You actually build the muscles in your legs by breaking them down. Tiny tears in the muscles from exercise cause them to grow and adapt to stress in the healing process. You'll strengthen your quads and hamstrings in your upper legs when you ride a bike as well as the muscles in your calves. In addition to your legs, you'll develop and strengthen your hips and glutes as well.

2. Toning

Some women shy away from vigorous exercise out of a concern they will develop bulky and unattractive muscles. But this is a misconception. Because of the difference in hormones, women have to work out much harder than men to develop big muscles. As trainer and exercise physiologist Amy Dixon writes on the "Shape" magazine website, to develop bulky thighs, you'd have to crank up the resistance on the bike so high that you could only pedal it for six to eight revolutions. In fact, biking burns calories and helps you lose weight, which helps transform chubby legs into sleek and shapely legs.

3. Special Populations

Biking enables people who have conditions such as muscle strain, knee or foot problems or back pain to strengthen their legs. If running or even walking aggravates those conditions, cycling might be the solution, according to the Healthy Women website. People who are overweight often benefit from cycling. Harvard Health Publications says that heavier people often do well on bikes because cycling isn't a weight-bearing exercise. Developing stronger legs from cycling can enhance the balance and mobility of people who struggle to stand or walk, including patients with Parkinson's disease.

4. Considerations

Building up your legs and glutes are major benefits of riding a bike. But there is an overriding -- no pun intended -- reason to pedal. Biking and other forms of exercise strengthen your cardiovascular system, and heart health is essential for good overall health. In order to take advantage of the benefits of biking, make sure your bike is set up properly. If the seat is too low or too high, it can aggravate or lead to knee problems.

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