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Did you know that cycling can transform our mental health?
We know exercise is part of a healthy diet and that we should all be doing a little more of it. But it isn’t just good for our bodies; it’s great for our minds, too.
We’ll look at the top seven ways cycling can transform your mental health.
1. Cycling Can Relieve Stress
Sometimes, going out on your bike can feel like coming up for air, escaping everyday life’s pressures. And there’s science to back it up.
In fact, it’s a proven stress reliever. According to British Cycling, frequently riding a bike can dramatically impact our stress levels. One survey in the British Medical Journal suggests that riding a bike daily makes you 15% more likely to be satisfied with your life.
Not only is this due to the release of ‘endorphins’, but it’s also partly because it’s a pretty affordable form of exercise. In the long term, it’s far cheaper than a gym membership and may even alleviate some financial concerns when looking after ourselves. It’s a win-win!
2. Cycling Can Boost Self-Esteem and Confidence
We’ve seen that it can relieve stress and make us feel better about ourselves more generally.
One study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science has shown that self-esteem significantly improves, up to 11%, after 10 short sessions or about five hours of exercise.
As Bicycling notes, aside from the exercise itself, it can also provide us with some actionable goals and targets to achieve. These can be anything from a distance covered to a personal speed record.
Overcoming difficult challenges that we set ourselves can greatly boost our confidence, allowing us to improve in other areas of life. This is why cycling is so great because there are loads of them.
3. Cycling Can Improve Your Mood
Aside from making us feel better about ourselves, it can also greatly impact our mood.
According to research from Edinburgh University, cycling might provide some relief for those of us suffering from anxiety and depression.
Using data from NHS prescription records, they concluded that those who commuted by bike demonstrated a 15% reduction in prescriptions for depression or anxiety compared to those who didn’t. It also seemed to have an even more positive impact on women.
We’re not suggesting that serious mental health conditions can be treated exclusively with cycling, but research like this suggests that it might form part of a practical solution alongside other measures.
4. Cycling Can Improve Your Sleep
Alongside exercise, sleep is something that very few of us get quite right. It’s either not enough, too much, or in poor quality. As anyone who’s missed a good night’s sleep recently can tell you, bad sleep can have a huge impact on other aspects of our lives.
In analyzing several studies, Sleep Medicine Reviews made some interesting findings. Of the various forms of exercise tested, cycling appeared to benefit participants the most when it came to getting a good night’s rest.
In an interview with Bicycling, it was reported that this is probably due to it being a great form of aerobic exercise. Whilst it isn’t always clear why this is good for sleep, one theory is that it contributes to better temperature regulation.
It’s also worth noting that the time of day you choose to cycle can make a difference. Early in the evening is reportedly the best time, so if any of you want to commute by bike and need an excuse, this is it. After all, it might just make you feel more energized.
5. Cycling Promotes Mindfulness and Feeling Present
Do you ever find yourself drifting off or unable to stay in the moment? You’re not the only one.
In the modern world, it’s increasingly difficult to retain focus. There are endless distractions and expectations of us, meaning that many of us struggle to manage and organize our thoughts.
According to Sustrans, both cycling and walking can give your brain something to concentrate on softly. When we’re out on our bikes, we have a few things to consider, such as our surroundings and balance. But, we don’t usually experience a sensory overload like when we’re driving in an urban area.
This focus can make us feel calm and help us think more carefully and rationally. It can also promote mindfulness, allowing us to clear our minds of distractions and embrace our surroundings. In other words, it shares some benefits with meditation!
6. Cycling Improves Cognitive Function
Studies have also shown that cycling can be great regarding cognitive function and well-being. Cognitive function, or the processing and using of information, is essential for everyday tasks, incorporating components such as memory, attention span, and communication skills.
It also tends to deteriorate with age, so any steps taken to protect it can help us feel young, focused, and productive.
According to one study published in the National Library of Medicine, cyclists using regular and electric bikes demonstrated improved accuracy in testing after riding at least three times a week for eight weeks. But, while the exercise is clearly important, there was another surprising find.
Those using e-bikes reportedly experienced even greater results. This suggests that other factors, such as the act of cycling or the time spent outdoors with Mother Nature, might also positively contribute to our mental health.
So, for those skeptical of e-bikes, there’s another thing that you’re missing out on!
7. Cycling Improves Your Social Life
If there’s one thing better than cycling alone, it’s cycling with a friend.
An aspect that’s neglected when it comes to cycling is its ability to improve our social life.
Whether you’re with a group of friends, at a club, or just giving a friendly nod to another biker, cycling can be a great way to socialize.
Countering the feelings of isolation that we often experience, cycling can be a common denominator for two strangers to interact. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, share new experiences, and build friendships based on a passion or just a hobby of yours.
According to BikeBiz, regularly socializing with like-minded people can decrease stress and anxiety and improve memory and recall, amongst other things.
The social aspect is a strong benefit of cycling, but it might just be the most impactful regarding our mental health.
Connecting with people around you is one of the joys of life, and cycling might be one of the best ways to experience and appreciate it. So what are you waiting for?