A ride doesn’t have to hit triple digits to “count”. In fact, several short-distance rides every week are shown to be highly beneficial, not only to your training but to your general health and wellbeing too.

It’s no secret that regular (preferably daily) exercise has numerous health benefits. Studies have shown that daily exercise helps lower the risk of heart disease, as well as improving blood pressure and triglyceride levels, which are important measures of cardiovascular health.

Short and sweet

If you’ve been tempted to give cycling a go, but worry that you’ll never find the time (or motivation) to become a 100km-on-a-Sunday cyclist, why not change your mindset and start with smaller increments. As long as you’re getting onto your bike often, it doesn’t really matter how far or how fast you go.

Regular cycling means you can have that butter croissant without feeling (too) guilty. A study conducted at the University of Bath had two groups of men massively over-eat for the duration of the study. One group exercised daily, while the other did not. Despite both groups consuming the same (vast) amounts of calories, the daily exercise group managed to offset the effects of overeating, including big spikes in blood sugar and other unhealthy metabolic changes.

Another interesting study which proves this point is the Cycling 100 Trial, where 100 commuters were given free bicycles and told to cycle to work as many days a week as they could. Not only did their fitness improve, but their LDL (bad cholesterol) levels decreased, HDL (good cholesterol) increased and tests revealed a reduced risk for heart attacks and stroke.

Performance benefit

For the more hardcore, competitive cyclist, shorter sessions are a must in your training plan. Not only are the shorter rides easier to recover from, but you can do more of them, bringing additional benefits into many other areas of your life.

Daily or almost-daily exercise is known to increase energy and reduce fatigue, improve reaction time and boost your memory and creative thinking. Cycling has also been found to reduce anxiety and depression. Regular, shorter rides are easier on the joints over the long-term and great for building the muscle strength you need when competing.

Daily shorter distances can be healthier than weekly or bi-weekly long distances, according to a study in Taiwan. It tracked 400,000 adults over eight years, specifically looking at how much they exercised. Even 15 minutes of exercise every day correlated with a three-year increase in life expectancy.

Shorter rides are also effective for improving power and speed. If you are training for a triathlon or duathlon, a shorter higher-intensity ride can provide a valuable boost to muscle strength.

Whatever your move, move more with the new 40km short ride at the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg on 17 November. Starting at Melrose Arch, the short ride joins the main route at the M1 South. Enter now at www.947ridejoburg.co.za.