The mental health benefits of cycling

The mental health benefits of cycling

We all know that exercise can help make us feel better mentally. Its not going to cure real mental health illnesses but it can help with the symptoms. I have suffered from up and down moods throughout my life and exercise has always been one of the few things i do that really has helped me. A survey by Cycleplan, which examined the health benefits people experienced after taking up cycling, found 75% of cyclists noticed an improvement in their mental health since getting on the saddle, with 8% even saying it helped with their depression or anxiety.

It generates mood enhancing chemicals

When you exercise and your heart rate increases, more oxygen is pumped to your brain which has been shown to help manage anxiety and depression. 

Endorphins and other mood-enhancing chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine are also released which all help to make us feel more positive. This is true for all kinds of exercise including cycling, but cycling is definitely a great way to start on the fitness route if you are having trouble getting started with regular exercise.

Cycling and mental health

Cycling reduces stress

Aerobic exercise can reduce your levels of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’. Any cyclist will recognise the reduction in tension that a bike ride brings. After a busy day at work or school, there is nothing like the stress relief that comes when you leave all of that behind and zoom off into the fresh air. Even if you are not an athlete, doing any level or amount of exercise is bound to reduce your stress levels.

xercise can provide stress relief for your body while imitating effects of stress, such as the flight or fight response, and helping your body and its systems practice working together through those effects. This can also lead to positive effects in your body—including your cardiovascular, digestive and immune systems—by helping protect your body from harmful effects of stress.

The real key to use cycling to reduce stress is about doing it regularly and building it into your daily routine.

Exercise helps our self esteem

Exercise can make you feel more positive about yourself. As well as observing yourself becoming fitter, you prove to yourself that you’re up to the challenge of, for example, riding to work and back. It can give you a sense of satisfaction and self-control that helps you withstand stress better. 

Cycling can improve your social life

Cycling is not just an exercise but it is also an activity. When you want to do something that doesn't involve drinking in a pub or eating food, going for a bike ride with someone is a good option. Cycling in a group can be really reassuring, really fun and a great social activity for the whole family. I have even gone on bike ride dates, they can be really fun and something different to do than the usual date activity. There are some groups that start with a bike ride and then end up at a pub, so riding a bike can definitely open up your social group. (and it doesn't have to be all just about health and fitness!)

You can read one of our past posts on how to join a group or community bike ride. Or if you consider pets and animals more your type of friend read on below for tips on how to take your pet out on a bike ride. :)

How to join a bike ride

How to take your pet on a bike ride

Cycling is social

Cycling gets you out into nature 

Literally whizzing past trees or cycling along a canal cycle path helps to put things into perspective, nature has always been a healer and spending time outside on a bicycle in nature and fresh air has so many benefits. Mental Health charity Mind says "Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. For example, research into ecotherapy (a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature) has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression. This might be due to combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature."

Being outside in natural light can be helpful if you experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects people during particular seasons or times of year. And people tell us that getting into nature has helped them with many other types of mental health problems.

Cycling helps you to living in the present

Cycling promotes mindfulness, where you focus on the sensations of the present moment instead of being caught up in racing thoughts. You don’t have to think about anything except balancing the bike, pushing the pedals, feeling the breeze, and so on. This offers a break from brooding thoughts that might otherwise become overwhelming. There is nothing better for my brain to be present in the moment, worrying about tomorrow or next week just seems to make me anxious. When i am on my bike i'm very much in the present moment and i love this feeling because it stops me from worrying, even if just for an hour or so.

I'm sure i didn't even have to write this blog post to show that cycling is good for your mental health, it seems so obvious to me. However, sometimes the most obvious thing is the best. Writing this post has definitely boosted my mood and reminded me of the importance of cycling, not just for my physical health but perhaps more importantly, for my mental health.

Read on:

A dummies guide to choosing a bicycle pannier rack

The mental health benefits of cycling

9 Un-useless bike accessories

Decorating your bicycle

100 Cycling Tips

Bike storage for your home not just leaning against the wall

Excuse busters for not cycling to work or school

Benefits of cycling for students


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