There are many benefits to regularly riding a bike. For many people, bicycling is a nostalgic thing. For others, bike riding may be one of the best ways to get in imperative exercise. However, one of the most commonly overlooked rewards to bicycling is its ability to help us improve our mental health and emotional wellbeing!
In these difficult times, it is imperative that you take extra care of your mental health. Here are five ways cycling can aid this mission:
1. Cycling Improves Your Mood
Bicycling gets you out of your house and into nature. Studies have shown that this alone can lift your spirits, reducing stress and decreasing symptoms of depression. As an added measure, being active and regularly exercising is an excellent way to keep you balanced. Endorphins, which inhibit pain and promote feelings of euphoria, are released. Your brain is creating new neurons in its hippocampus through a process called neurogenesis, which helps fight chemical imbalances that cause depression. All of this is happening while you are bicycling around the neighborhood or through a woodsy bike trail.
2. It Can Boost Self-Esteem
When you are working out regularly, a by-product of that is a boost to your self-esteem. Exercising is a form of self-love. Caring for your body and treating it with respect can help deter bad thoughts. Momentum Magazine reported a study on physical activity and self-esteem. They determined physical activity has a positive impact on your self-perception. It did not matter how long or short your exercise was, as long as you did something like riding up a difficult trail or cycling at a park.
3. It Encourages Better Brain Connectivity
Our brains are made of both grey and white matter. Though the focus is usually on grey matter, white matter plays a major role in your mental health and well-being as well. White matter is right under the brain’s surface like a subway system. When that system malfunctions or slows down, it can lead to other cognitive issues. Studies have shown that utilizing your motor skills on a regular basis helps keep this system in tip-top shape.
“Cycling also puts you into a meditative state without you having to make a conscious decision to sit down and meditate. It’s rhythmic, but you need enough focus on what you’re doing to block out your worries,” Coach Will Newton told Cyclist. “You can’t think too deeply about your problems when you’re trying to ride in a straight line and avoid traffic or making sure you maintain a pace that isn’t too hard or too easy. You might notice a thought, but you can’t focus too hard on paying the mortgage before you have to react to the next set of traffic lights.”
4. It Reduces Anxiety
Anxiety is a common feeling, but when it prevents you from keeping a job or living out your daily life, it is time to address it. Cycling could be one of the ways to help thwart it. A 2001 study shows that aerobic exercise can reduce generalized anxiety and reduce anxiety sensitivity. This helps to deter panic attacks and panic disorders. Keep in mind that you do not have to undergo high levels of aerobics to get the benefits. No matter the intensity, it is always beneficial.
5. It Improves Memory and Reasoning
Not only does aerobic exercise reduce your chances of having a panic attack, but it can also help maintain adequate blood flow to the brain. This steady blood flow can improve your thinking, learning and judgment. One study from the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research found after cycling, young men that pedalled a stationary bike at moderate intensity for 30 minutes scored higher on cognitive tests.
Bicycling has many benefits. Some of them you can see, like muscular legs and toned arms. Other benefits, particularly mental health benefits, may be harder to see but they are just as important. Now, grab your bike helmet, mountain bike or e-bike, and take a ride.
*Alex is a cycling expert at Pedallers and focuses on reviewing bikes, accessories, and general cycling. She searches for the most up to date products that match the needs of cyclists across the world. Whether it’s recent news or the best bike set-ups, Alex is a trusted source for anything around cycling.