The Benefits of Cycling
There are many benefits of cycling. It’s better for the environment. It’s great for physical fitness. Not to mention the financial big plus if your ride a bike rather than run a car. However, to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re talking mental health benefits of cycling.
While we’re not saying that going for a cycle can solve the world’s mental health problems but surely, when we hear daily of stories of suicide and battles of depression, stress, anxiety and countless other conditions, if we can do something to help, we should.
“91% rate off-road cycling as fairly or very important for their mental health, and 90% for their physical health” – Cycling UK
So here are 5 mental health benefits of cycling you might experience:
1. Improved self esteem
While you might cycle to lose weight or get fitter, you’ll also find confidence in yourself increase as you see what you have accomplished and what you can achieve. Read Rose’s story for her account on just how much cycling has improved her confidence.
2. Reduced stress
“Cycling is one of the most effective treatments for stress and in many cases has been proven to be as effective as medication – if not more so,” explains Neil Shah, psychotherapist and director of the Stress Management Society. Why? Well doing any form of aerobic exercise will reduce your levels of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’ but with cycling there are a few added benefits. For example, NICE found that people who use active travel (e.g. cycling to work) benefitted from improved mental wellbeing compared to those who drove by car. There is also evidence to suggest exercising out door (rather than in a gym or indoors) is better for your mental health.
3. A sense of calm
No mobile phones. No work emails. No list of chores at home. Whether it’s a twenty minute commute or a whole weekend in the saddle, focusing on the pedals, balancing your bike and feeling the breeze, the fresh air or the warm glow of the sun allows you to forget everything else and concentrate only on the present. Vital respite from a world which is constantly demanding your attention in so many ways.
4. Peace and Quiet or Friendship and Support
One of the many joys of cycling the fact you can choose how to do it. Want some time to yourself? Go it alone! Looking for a bit of camaraderie, go out with friends or join a cycling club. Friendship can play an important fact in mental health. Apart from being a motivator to keep you on the bike, social interaction, finding people to talk to and feeling included can all boost your mental health.
5. A better routine
Make cycling a habit and you’ll reap the rewards. For example, regular exercise can really help with mild to moderate depression and exercising regularly can help reduce the risk of becoming depressed. Also, cycling outdoors aids this routine building as it exposes your body to daylight; “this helps get your circadian rhythm back in sync and rids your body of cortisol, the stress hormone that can prevent deep, regenerative sleep.” – Professor Jim Horne. With a better night’s sleep, it’ll be easier to keep your daily routine (and therefore your regular exercise) going. Forming a new habit or routine can be hard, take a look at How I Made Cycling A Habit to learn how our guest blogger, Alan H, managed.
Get on your bike!
Now you know some of the benefits of cycling, what’s stopping you?
Not sure where to start?
You’ve got a bike but it’s not seen the light of day for a while?
Book it in for a service to make sure it’s all tickety-boo before you head out and about.