Cycling is primarily an exercise that works your cardiovascular system. It is true that muscular strength is gained primarily in lower body. If you understand how to use multiple gears on a 18 speed or 24 speed bike, etc., you can choose to make it easier (in terms of effort) or more challenging on your body. However no experienced cyclist would recommend gearing that pushes your knees.
Cycling does need at least 1 complementary, secondary exercise at times for all-over body fitness --it could be stretching, weighlifting. Many regular cyclists during cold seasons when (or if) they choose not to cycle, may xcountry ski, hike, snowshoe or snowboard.
I cannot but stress the cycling for myself, is never boring since I do all of it outdoors and hence, scenery changes and weather conditions forces one's body to adapt over time. On a day where I'm feeling lousy, I don't push as hard vs. other days I do ramp up the speed.
Non-cyclists forget the level of cardio effort to go a long distance, up and down hills, etc. Dealing with headwind vs. the wonderful tailwind.
today I cycled for 42 kms. after not being on bike for past 8 days. During the lst 1/2 hr., I was feeling slightly crappy plus the fact the route requires mounting 2 7-10% grade hills at the beginning. But psychologically after mounting a hill, then the whole ride is alot easier physically and psychologically.
this ride is approx. 2 hrs. long and is one of my regular routes on weekends. At the end of the ride, I bike over to grocery stores to do shopping. It works really well, this lifestyle.
In terms of weight management, cycling has worked for me...without trying too hard. ie. I went to visit toronto and ate luscious rich meals (I allowed myself 1 calorie-indulgence per day) with family members and friends for 10 consecutive days. I cycled 8 of those days and just cycled, each day, a tame 26 kms. on reasonably flat route with 1 bunny hill. It was humid 80-85 degrees during that visit.
I only gained 1 lb. I had peameal bacon sandwiches, luscious desserts, and other gourmet entrees at restaurants. Included wedding banquet, later mega-family reunion barbecue dinner, etc.
I have been cycling regularily for almost past 17 yrs. now.
I do not know how to swim, so I don't do water sports. I do walk alot during rainy days since we don't have car.
I know alot of men and women in their 40's to 70's who are cycling nearly daily, approx. 25-40 miles days. part of cycling is mental endurance also...to finish the last 10 miles or whatever after a long ride. Something that perhaps children and some teenagers need tons of psychologically boosting.
but if a woman has given birth, raised children and survived major life events...she most certainly has the mental stamina to do a long ride. wouldn't you agree???
The women's cycling internet forum that I'm on, includes primarily women from their late 20's up to 60's. There are incredbibly several women in their 50's who are racing..after taking up racing in only the last 5-10 years.
These are women who have had children. I only mention this, since post-pregnancy weight for women seems to be a common problem (plus time scheduling).
the neat thing about cycling is that a person can take a very narrow utilitarian focus --limit interest in cycling just for one's health or for transportation. Or you can expand for vacation touring, environmental advocacy work ..or get into bike culture..where there's a whole world of wacky bike art, wacky bikes, cycling lingo, alternative lifestyles, etc.
I'm not sure if there is walking "culture" or "swimming" culture. I'm sure there must be....but it does add to the whole experience of partaking in a sport where you meet other equally enthusiastic people who express their passion-love for same sport in completely different ways.