Goodbye gym, hello Zwift

If you’re trying to motivate yourself to get fitter, Zwift may just be the answer

This is a sponsored article in association with Zwift.

Spring has finally sprung and attentions have naturally turned to gearing up for a fitter, more active summer.

Gyms beckon, and their monthly memberships prove tempting to many of us, as they tap into our fears that we’ve stacked up a few too many fatty deposits over winter. Don’t fall into the trap. A UK poll showed that the average ‘gym-goer’ wastes £1,000 a year by being tied into 12-month contracts but, at most, attends for just three months.

It’s hardly surprising; most gyms play demotivating cheesy dance music, you’re forced to wait for weight machines, and you waste time heading to the gym and back. Enter Zwift…

Affordable improvements

Zwift riding in Watopia
Zwift riding in Watopia

Zwift is the multiplayer cycling gaming sensation that’s transformed indoor cycling from a disheartening winter exercise to an all-year-round motivational essential.

The basic requirement is an indoor trainer, an ANT+/Bluetooth device, such as a speed sensor and laptop. You can then log in for the free seven-day trial and enter the world of Zwift — a place where you can follow structured workouts and compete on professional courses against riders all around the world.

After the week is over and you’ve realised you’ve massively improved your pedalling in just seven days, you can edge ever closer to your season’s goals for just £12.99 / $14.99 / €14.99 / AU$19.99 a month. Not only is that much cheaper than the majority of gyms around the country, it’s also non-contract, so if you want to cancel, you can do so at any time.

But the makers of Zwift are confident that’s unlikely – as is professor Daniel Mestre of Aix-Marseille University, who found that cyclists cycled harder and stuck to a training plan longer when indoor training to the backdrop of a cycling simulator. A further study by Dr Jim Annesi showed ‘adherence’ to a 14-week training plan was greater in a virtual-reality bicycle group than in a standard bicycle group.

It all means that thanks to your dedication and Zwift’s motivational lure, come your next sportive, criterium or midweek time-trial, you’ll be stronger and happier than ever before. And here are five reasons why…

1. Cardiovascular benefits

Riding in the Mayan Expansion of Watopia on the Jungle Loop
Riding in the Mayan Expansion of Watopia on the Jungle Loop

You’ll use 10 times more oxygen cycling with Zwift than planting your buttocks on the sofa and watching TV. That means a stronger heart and lungs, and is why studies show you’ll cut your chances of heart disease by an incredible 46 percent. And we’re not talking Froome-like levels of mileage here.

Just 20 miles each week will boost your cardiovascular system. Cycling will clearly strengthen your leg muscles too, but a recent study shows that these improvements are transferable. In other words, though you’re predominantly exercising your legs via a chain of metabolic reactions, your arms receive a workout too.

2. Burn the ale

Get fit on the routes of Watopia
Get fit on the routes of Watopia

A pint of ale contains roughly 250 calories. Reflect on your weekend excesses and that figure can easily flow into the tens of thousands. As Zwift can burn up to 800 calories each hour, the benefits to belly-banishing are clear (based on a 90kg cyclist riding for an hour).

However, did you know that the bigger your binge, the quicker you’ll lose weight? Why is down to physics. The greater an object’s mass, the more energy is required to move it.

Say a 70g rider burns 500 calories an hour riding at 14mph, and 1lb contains roughly 3,500 calories, it would take them seven hours of cycling to lose just 1lb. A 90kg rider would burn 700 calories an hour riding at 14mph because they have a bigger mass to move. That means it would take them just five hours.

So if you’ve overindulged recently, at least you’ve given yourself an advantage in the weight loss battle.

3. Eternal youth

Choose from workouts, races and free rides
Choose from workouts, races and free rides

Your heart becomes slightly stiffer and slightly smaller with age, but thankfully, regular cycling makes it bigger and less stiff.

One recent study by King’s College London and the University of Birmingham recruited 84 male and 41 female cycling enthusiasts aged 55 to 79, who could cycle 100km in under 6:30hrs, to explore how the ageing process affects the human body. The results showed that a significant number of them boasted a physiological age much younger than their sedentary contemporaries.

It’s time to ride yourself into youth this spring.

4. Rapid recovery

Set up anywhere
Set up anywhere

Sleep is vital in our recovery, but research shows 50 percent of adults get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night, with 5 percent getting fewer than five hours.

Thankfully, cycling provides a double whammy on this front. Not only does it build strength and stamina, but a study by Northwestern University in the US revealed that it improved the sleep patterns of middle-aged insomniacs. That ‘middle-aged’ moniker is relevant because insomnia becomes a greater problem as you age.

5. Happy pedalling

Change the way you workout indoors...
Change the way you workout indoors...

According to the Office of National Statistics, nearly a fifth of adults in the UK experience anxiety or depression. This emotional hit can lead to a number of biological changes, with research suggesting serotonin – a hormone that impacts upon feelings and behaviour and is also known as the ‘happy hormone’ – is suppressed. That’s where cycling comes in.

Exercise, especially of an aerobic nature, has been shown to raise serotonin levels — making Zwift a pretty good medicine.

Regular cycling also lowers the levels of stress hormones in the blood, such as adrenaline and cortisol, and there’s a clear link between stress and reduced immunity.

That doesn’t just manifest itself in physical well-being but mental, too. Exercise releases endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as the body’s natural painkillers and mood-lifters, and have been identified as a key weapon in the fight against depression.

As you can see, Zwift will not only help you shed weight and improve your cycling performance, it’ll also result in a healthier, more fulfilled life. And all for the cost of two London-priced pints a month!

This article was published by BikeRadar, the world's leading source of bike reviews, gear reviews, riding advice and route information
  • Discipline: Road, Mountain, Urban, Womens
  • Location: UK, USA, Australia

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