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The Mental Health Benefits of Cycling

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Man staring out over the top of a hill with bicycle

Lower blood pressure, improved cardiovascular capacity and fat burning are just a few of the many well-known benefits to our body that can come with bike riding. What might not be as immediately obvious however, is the impact cycling can have on our mental health. Recent studies have shown that regular cycling can help build a better brain, both structurally and functionally. We’ll take a closer look at how hopping on your bike can bring you greater peace of mind and improve your workday.

Cycling boosts your memory and reasoning 

All aerobic exercise can be good for the brain as it helps to maintain blood flow to the organ providing it with a supply of nutrients and oxygen. People who exercise regularly often find that their judgement, learning and thinking remains sharp as they age. But it’s not just older people who benefit from this link between physical exercise and brain function – even youngsters claim that a bike ride can help their thought processes.

A 2013 study had a group of healthy young men pedal a stationary bike at a moderate pace for 30 minutes. The group completed a series of tests before and after the exercise. The study found that after their 30-minute pedal they scored higher on memory, planning and reasoning and were able to complete the tests quicker than before the exercise.

Cycling improves your brain power

There’s a good reason why studies show that our mental skills are improved after a bike ride – it’s all to do with the ‘white matter’ in our brains. White matter, found beneath the brain surface, acts as a conduit linking different regions of the brain together –  like a cerebral subway system.

Evidence from a 2014 Dutch study, over a six-month period showed that healthy people who regularly pedalled increased the integrity of their white matter. The increase of which helps your brain function more smoothly, something which is great for any problem-solving you might have to face at work.

Cycling improves your well-being 

Regular physical activity also helps to combat stress, depression and anxiety. Cycling to work though, is one of the best ways to improve your well-being every day. A study carried out across a number of European cities, found that using your bike to get around can help with lowering perceived stress and fighting the feelings of loneliness. The research, conducted by ISGlobal, compared different ways of getting around such as: walking, taking the car or public transport, and claimed that cycling was the number one mode of transport for improving your well-being.

The research is supported by a previous study of commuters by the University of East Anglia back in 2014. That report concluded that those who cycle to work were put under less strain and were able to concentrate more than those who commute by car. The same study also found that commuters who had made the switch from four wheels to two, reported that they felt happier as a result – and who doesn’t want to brighten up their day?

Mental Health is important. If you want to learn more about it, why not visit Mental Health Awareness Week’s website, where there are plenty of articles, tips and useful sources.

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