Cycling is a terrific cardiovascular exercise. Powering up hills, tackling technical trails, and even just going for a gentle ride on a nice day engages your muscles, gets your heart rate up, and burns lots of calories.
If you’re trying to stay physically fit and healthy, cycling is a terrific activity to partake in often.
When it comes to your mental health, cycling is just as great. There’s a growing body of research that suggests that exercise (especially outdoor exercise) can lift your mood, reduce your stress level, and ease away anxiety.
Not only is cycling good exercise, but it can also build confidence, connect you with a community of friends, ease you into other fun activities, and give you a valuable break from the other stresses of your life.
Want to know more? Here are 9 of the ways that riding a bike can help improve your mental health.
9 Mental Health Benefits of Regular Cycling
A meta-analysis of studies concerning exercise and self-esteem conducted in 2000 found that 27 of 36 reviewed trials linked exercise with a positive effect on physical self-perceptions and self-esteem.
Cycling is an especially good exercise for helping you feel good about yourself.
It’s easy to get into without a lot of equipment or training, it’s easy to set your own goals and make steady progress, and the community is incredibly inclusive.
The sense of accomplishment you get from steadily improving your speed, endurance, and technical ability never goes away. Even within a short ride, you’ll often feel good about how you stuck to proper technique, nailed a tricky part of a trail, or had the power to blast up a tough hill.
Cycling isn’t without failures, of course. You’ll sometimes fail to meet your goals or fall off the bike. Unlike in some areas of life, however, it’s easy to get back on the bike and try again.
This makes your cycling journey a great source of positive feelings about yourself, especially when you go back and conquer the times, trails, and techniques that you were struggling with earlier.
It’s an Effective Anti-Depressant
Science consistently shows that regular exercise is a great way of combating depression.
A year 2000 discussion on the topic found that no fewer than three meta-analyses that suggest strong links between increased exercise and reduced rates of depression.
Some of the more promising studies concerning exercise have shown that regular physical activity can be just as effective as psycho-therapeutic techniques in reducing depression.
Again, cycling is an ideal activity for this purpose: it’s outdoors, you can cycle alone or in a group, and you can ride for as long or short as you’d like.
This means that not only can you double-dip and take advantage of the benefits of spending time outside, but you can also fit the activity into any schedule.
Helps Elevate Mood ( Makes You Feel Good )
Even if you’re not depressed, cycling can help you feel better overall.
People who engage in as little as 30 minutes of casual daily physical activity consistently report better moods and overall mental well-being than people who don’t.
The exact mechanism behind this isn’t clear, but cycling is definitely one of the easier ways to get 30 minutes of light cardio. Simply biking to work, to a park, or even to a local business will give you the cardio you need to help your brain feel good.
Cycling Reduce Stress & Anxiety
Dealing with anxiety isn’t easy. Even a mild case of generalized anxiety can have a profound negative impact on your life, forcing you to feel stressed about everyday situations and making it harder to work, socialize, and perform your responsibilities.
According to this study conducted in 2001, aerobic exercise can help reduce both generalized anxiety and something called anxiety sensitivity.
Which is something doctors view as a warning sign for future panic attacks and anxiety disorders.
Again, bicycling is a wonderfully simple and pleasant aerobic activity that you can squeeze into even the busiest schedule.
Promotes Overall Healthy Lifestyle
The environment you’re in and the media you consume have a big effect on the choices you make.
Serious cyclists, as a community, tend to be on the healthier side: they eat right, get plenty of cardio, and carefully take care of their bodies in order to get the best performance they can when they ride.
Even if you’re not planning on racing or competing yourself, hanging out with other cycling enthusiasts will have a powerful effect on your everyday health choices.
Your friends’ healthy influence will gradually creep in on your day-to-day decisions.
You don’t even need to meet up with these friends in real life to reap this reward. Simply reading cycling message boards will expose you to all sorts of healthy ideas that can impact your personal decision-making.
Helps Get You Better Sleep
According to the medical community, getting 30 minutes of aerobic exercise can have an immediate impact on how well you sleep that night.
Research even suggests that this benefit can be as strong as the effect of pharmaceutical sleep aids.
This can compound with the other benefits above: if you’re stressed out at work, not only can biking help reduce your stress level, it can also help you feel better the next day, giving you better rest so you can be fresh and eager when it’s time to tackle your problems.
Biking outdoors at the right time can also help keep your body’s circadian rhythm calibrated. Going for a quick ride during the day will remind your brain that you should be awake.
Going for a quick jaunt right before sundown will reinforce the idea that you should be sleeping soon.
Improves Creative Thinking
Giving yourself a bit of space from your problems can provide some much-needed perspective and give you a better angle to come up with new ideas. For many people, cycling provides this space.
Not only are you physically far from the things you need to think about, but the activity of cycling can also produce a variety of trance-like mental states that put your brain in a different mode than it’s normally in.
On the science side, cardiovascular exercise doesn’t just improve blood flow to your muscles. It also boosts the flow of blood to your brain, increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your brain has to work with.
When you bike, your brain has two to three times as much protein material to play with when it comes to making new cells. This makes your time spent riding incredible for thinking about things you’ve learned, drawing new connections, and coming up with new ideas.
Cycling Helps Boost Productivity
A bit of light exercise can have a profound impact on workplace productivity.
In one 2008 study, participants reported more than 70% average improvement in how they managed their time and completed their tasks on days they exercised.
The authors of the study suggest that this is largely related to the mental factors above.
Participants were better equipped to handle workplace stress and maintain a positive outlook, empowering them to keep their focus on their job and get things done.
The aforementioned benefits in creative thinking can also help here, as you’ll have a great source of new thoughts that you can use to solve your problems and improve your processes.
Increase Energy & Positive Engagement
People who exercise tend to feel better, sleep better, and think better. This means that they’re some of the most energetic, positive people in the world today. The benefits of cycling can help you join those people.
Things like reduced anxiety, higher quality sleep, and an overall better mood, will help put you in the right mental state to engage positively with the challenges of everyday life.
When you’re already down, a little hiccup can turn into a massive hurdle.
By cycling regularly, you can increase the chances that you’ll be well-rested, happy, productive, and on top of things. You’ll be energetic and ready to tackle any problems you encounter.
Q. What Does Cycling Do To Our Brain?
Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain. It also helps the brain to produce more new cells and makes the hippocampus bigger, giving your brain more processing power.
Exercise has been proven to reduce age-related memory and cognitive decline as well. In other words, cycling makes you smarter, helps you learn, and keeps you smart for longer.
Q. Why Do We Feel Good After Cycling?
When you perform any exercise, including cycling, your body releases a type of chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals trigger your brain’s pleasure sensors.
Endorphins work similarly to morphine: they bind to the same sort of receptors in your brain, reducing your ability to feel pain, making you feel good, and giving you a positive outlook.
Unlike drugs, however, endorphins have no negative side effects. They’re our body’s natural way of telling our brains that we’re doing something good.
The more research we do, the more we find that exercise is good for our mental health. Biking is a great source of outdoor cardio that can let anyone take advantage of the benefits of exercise.
It’s an effective way to combat anxiety, improve sleep, lift your mood and help boost your brainpower.
Whether you’re doing a quick 30-minute ride every day or taking longer trips on the weekends, cycling can give you the productivity and energy you need to succeed in life.
It might be something you started doing for fun, but it should definitely be something that you keep doing to take care of your mental health.
General Disclaimer: This article is for general information only and does not intended to replace an informed medical opinion. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem. Always consult your doctor before changing your diet, sleep habits, dietary supplements, or a new exercise routine.