If you’ve been feeling down in the dumps, or have been struggling with anxiety, your first thought probably isn’t, “I should jump on my bike and get out into the countryside!” But, maybe it should be.
Cycling has been linked directly to boosting mental wellbeing; a 2007 study showed that men who bicycled leisurely had an improved state of mental health.
While you may not feel certain that cycling may truly improve your mental wellbeing, there are significant studies and research to show how it can definitely improve how you see the world. In a survey of approximately 1,000 people performed by Cyclespan, about 75% of people claimed they noticed an improvement in their mental state after a session of bicycling.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for, well, forever you’re no stranger the reality that exercise is good for you. However, it’s not just the physical health that exercise directly influences. Exercise has profound effects on the state of mental health. Here are just some of the areas that exercise can improve your mental health:
- Depression. Research has shown that exercising for fifteen minutes to one hour each day reduces the risk of depression by 26%. One of the main reasons exercise such as cycling can help fight depression is that it promotes brain neural growth, reduces inflammation in the brain, and instills a sense of calm and well-being. In addition, exercise releases endorphins to help fight depression.
- Anxiety. With the release of endorphins of exercise comes a reduction in tension and stress, commonly linked to high levels of anxiety. When you cycle, the repetitive motion of pedaling can actually act as a form of meditation which directly reduces anxiety levels. If you focus on how you are feeling with every push of the pedal, this can act as a grounding technique. Instead of worrying about what is occurring outside of your control, focusing on that constant pedal movement doesn’t allow for intrusive thoughts to barge in as easily.
- Stress. Exercise is an effective way to break the cycle of stress by relieving any tension you are holding in your body. When your body begins to feel better, your mind will in turn reward you with a reduction of stress.
- ADHD. Exercise, such as bicycling, boosts dopamine levels, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Each of these naturally occurring brain chemicals help you focus and concentrate while also improving your sense of motivation, memory, and emotional levels. There are studies that show exercise can reduce symptoms of ADHD similarly as low doses of ADHD medications, but without side effects.
- PTSD. Although exercise is not a substitute for proper medication and counseling, it has been shown to be effective in reducing some symptoms associated with PTSD, particularly when those suffering from PTSD consistently exercised at least three days a week for 12 weeks. Symptoms such as depression and poor sleep quality were decreased.
- Being in nature
Spending time in the great outdoors is directly related to improving mental health, and boosting mental wellbeing. After spending just twenty minutes in nature, anxiety levels typically drop for most individuals. While cycling close to home may be easiest, if possible, head for the countryside where fewer urban buildings and cars are, and take in big breaths of fresh air as you cycle.
Studies have been performed in which select participants exercise in urban environments, while others exercise the same amount of time in more natural settings. The participants who spent time in nature had cognitive benefits such as when performing complex memory tasks, and had decreased anxiety and rumination, with a renewed sense of wellbeing. If you have the option of popping into a local gym or hopping on a road bike and making your way into the countryside, opt for the latter and find a road bike recommended by Pedallers
- A sense of success
There is little quite as rewarding as working towards a goal and accomplishing it. Huge payback arrives when you put in the time and effort to achieve a specific goal. If you are looking to boost your wellbeing through cycling, consider setting mini-goals that you can work towards. Another option would be to work towards racing non-professionally, or by engaging in local cycling events.
Ultimately, exercising at all will help boost your mental well being. However, there’s nothing quite like the wind rushing across your skin as you pedal through the countryside on a warm afternoon. If cycling can act as both exercise and meditation, there is value in using it as a boost to your mental wellbeing.