Mental health benefits of cycling July 16, 2020 The Mental Health Benefits of Cycling Just as we’re susceptible to falling ill to a variety of different forms of cancer, we’re all vulnerable to suffering from a range of mental health illnesses. Mental health awareness is moving into the mainstream, and in this time of social distancing, the acceptance of mental health issues by the broader community can not come quickly enough. The stigma is slowly fading away and society has come to terms that complicated and often misunderstood illnesses can dramatically affect the lives of friends, loved ones or even ourselves.“Several studies have found that the combination of exercise and exposure to the outdoors is a bit of a magic combination for emotional and mental health – it’s now considered to a key therapeutic component of any strategy to combat depression, anxiety, and stress.” (Mensline)Some of the best forms of outdoor exercise are team sports, think football, soccer, rugby etc. A close second is cycling. With COVID-19 limiting options of team sports, we have a look at why and how cycling has a positive role in your mental health campaign. And a few tips on the best way to get started. Building a Bigger Brain Regular cycling increases the production of hormones in your body, namely serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals create a ‘feel good/happy’ feeling in us. Cycling also increases other chemicals in the body, such as endorphins and cannabinoids (from the same family as marijuana but produced within the body naturally).Regular exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain. According to Canadian neuroscientist Brian Christie, PhD, you can build your brain by increasing the blood vessels, providing more oxygen and nutrients to help them work. You can even double or triple the production of neurons.This can become extremely important as we get older. Our brains start to shrink and the neurotransmitters begin to weaken. Scientists have compared the brains of adults in their 60’s and 70’s and found that the brains of those who regularly participated in physical activities like cycling appeared younger than those who do not. Staying Social Yet Distant One of the important factors in combating mental health is staying social. When it comes to cycling, there is a wide and varied community of cyclists who come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and speeds. Cycling as a form of exercise is perfect during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, provided you are cycling by yourself or perhaps with one other person. Cycling two abreast is far enough apart to adhere to physical distancing rules, however, cycling in a single file formation can increase risk should the lead cyclist sneeze or cough uncovered. Cycling in larger groups in a tight formation is discouraged. All is not lost, there are options…Check-in with the online community via Strava. This platform connects the cycling world the same way Facebook does. You build a profile and record your rides. It’s a great way to follow and connect with new people.If the weather makes it too hard to don the lycra, there are other opportunities. Invest in an exercise trainer and cycle in the Tour de France route from the comfort of your living room. You can even ride alongside your friends at the same time! There are many apps you can use to facilitate the activity. It’s the perfect way to ride some of the best peaks in the world without getting on a plane!If you’re looking for a community of friends you haven’t met yet, we’d advise having a look at Meetup. There’s plenty of cycling groups where like-minded people of similar ability get together to enjoy a ride. How and Where to Start If cycling boosts your mood and builds your brain, then can you cycle your way to becoming a brain surgeon? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. More is not better when it comes to cycling and exercise. The key here is consistency, consistency, consistency.Make it easy for yourself, especially if you are just starting. Stick to routes that you may be familiar with, that are off the roads and on a bike path. Give yourself the best chance to enjoy yourself. Starting with a 100km ride on a busy highway will not entice you to get on a bike again any time soon. It’s much better to go on a small ride for 30 minutes at a leisurely pace than it is to plan and procrastinate a big cycle day that you never go on. Catching up with a friend and heading through the park for a socially distant coffee is the perfect way to begin. You don’t need a fancy bike and you don’t need lycra. Just two wheels, a little bit of motivation and an open mind. It’s a hard time for a lot of people and whilst we appreciate cycling does not necessarily replace counselling, we feel that it can be a positive step in the right direction. We hope it brings a smile to your face, as it does to ours. 5 Reasons Why Cycling is Positive on Your Mental Health. It’s a natural high | Cycling increases the level of serotonin and dopamine that is produced in our brains, improving our mood, decreasing anxiety and enhancing our ability to deal with stress.It helps you sleep | Regular riding helps synchronise your circadian rhythm, reducing the stress hormone, cortisol, and increasing the quality of deep, regenerative sleep.Your memory improves | Regular cycling increases the flow of oxygen to the brain and increasing the production of proteins that create new brain cells.Promotes feelings of calm | The regular, uniform movements of cycling can have a relaxing effect on the brain and can be a great way to ‘zone out’.Improves your confidence | The serotonin mood neurotransmitter released while cycling aids in keeping us stable, socially and emotionally. Share the journey Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on linkedin Share on whatsapp Share on email Feeling inspired? 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