3 Main Benefits of Cycling: Brain, Mind, Well-Being
Confession: I really do not like exercise. I cannot even spell the word half the time. Okay I do not like structured exercise. You know; going to the gym, getting on the machines, working out with people watching, counting repetitions and sets… you get it. I cannot even count how many times I have opened a membership (Okay 3 times) and canceled a membership (3 times) and got a personal trainer; and still quit. It just is not for me at the moment. I do however love outdoor physical activities (see how I did not call it exercise!). Outdoor play works for me and my choice of play has been bicycling! It has helped me in so many ways, and best of all; it is fun! But did you know that it can also have positive effects on your brain, mental health, and your overall well-being? I did some research just for you!
It comes to no surprise that physical activity has positive effects on various parts of our lives. Much of the information I am about to share can be applied to many forms of exercise or physical activity, but I chose cycling because similar to swimming and walking, it takes less effort and is can be less strenuous on the body when compared to running or gym exercises. Best of all; you do not need a membership and you can do it with the whole family!
Effects on Our Brain and Brain Health
- Some studies suggest that physical activity can help reduce the risks associated with aging and the changes in our brain function.
- Aging comes with more than the obvious physical changes. much of the changes we may experience as we get older are associated with declines in cognitive ability. Mental health problems such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other types of memory loss are greater as we get older.
- These types of declines have been associated with the possible deterioration of cognitive functions (thinking, decision-making, processing of information, memory, working memory, etc.).
- Cardiovascular exercise and staying active may help with these declines in cognitive ability because these types of physical activities require the individual to switch between tasks, to keep their focus and to make decisions based on information presented in front of them. (Switching lanes, gears, etc. )
- This as a result may affect our awareness, our ability to process information, and our brains ability to form connections between our brain and our body in a positive manner.
- Physical activity may also stimulate the hormones or chemicals in our heads responsible for euphoric feelings (ex: runners’ high).
- 2. Effects on The Mind (Mental Health)
This also relates to the brain, but more specifically the mind, or our mental health.
- Physical activity of many forms has been widely used to treat mental health problems such as: minor depression, clinical depression, anxiety, and stress.
- It has proved as an effective and positive form of therapy when combined with other forms of therapy such as behavioral, cognitive or other forms of clinical therapy.
- Like mentioned before, physical activity may increase our cognitive abilities which may in turn reduce negative thoughts associated with lower levels of self-esteem, stress, anxiety, sadness, etc.
- This may help reduce the chances of developing a mental health problem by allowing for healthy patterns of behaviors that effect both mental and physical health.
- Cyclist interviewed for a study of the effects of cycling reported that cycling allowed them to have a clearer mind and to stay more focused.
- They also reported that they felt less stressed after their cycling sessions and they often used cycling as a way to re-energize, (link is below at Https://books.google)
- 3. Effect on Overall Well-Being
Overall well-being can be measured both by our psychological health, as well as our physical health.
- It is no surprise then that when our body feels healthy, we feel happier. The opposite can also be true; we may feel sadder when our health is not well.
- This well-being can also be linked to better quality of life and life satisfaction.
- Poor levels of exercise may lead to health problems such as: increased risk for obesity, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes, among others.
- These health problems however may often come accompanied by mental health problems that are related to: self-esteem problems, stress, depression, anxiety, or other emotional problems.
- Study found that cycling, either as a way of commuting or for recreational purposes, has a positive effect on overall well-being; psychological and physical, (Vlachopoulos et al., 2015).
- Physical exercise can also have a positive effect on our sleep and quality of sleep. Those who chose to do physical activity found it easier to fall and to stay asleep.
- Physical exercise, when done regularly, can help us lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
- This can also have a positive effect on the quality of our lives and our mental health by decreasing the risk for weight-related health conditions and emotional problems related to body image.
- Some report that cycling had an effect on their self-esteem and mood because it provides you with a synergistic effect, especially when out in nature. (link is below at Https://books.google)
- Some also report that cycling makes them feel younger and the fun and enjoyment of being out in nature improves their view of the quality of their life
BONUS BONUS BONUS
- Cycling is a great option for those who cannot jog, lift, or do other forms of exercise that are strenuous to the body.
- Cycling is a great way to commute close distances and avoid the congestion of traffic.
- It is also a more environmentally friendly option because it reduces air pollution and green house emissions caused by vehicles. (Some however believe that this may not be a great option because cyclists are more prone to breathing these pollutants when commuting near vehicles).
- They have great options for bicycles that can make your commute feel even easier and are cost effective. YAY for electric bikes!
- You have the option to choose to cycle in trails and parks instead of using the bicycle as a commute option.
- You get to explore and discover your neighborhood or the nature around you by visiting amazing serene trails.
*I included a lot of information! I know. Do not worry, because I have included the links to all the information I included in this post. Check them out below and let me know what types of activities you like to do in order to keep that brain, body and mind healthy.
Agarwal, A., & North, A. (2012). Encouraging Bicycling among University Students: Lessons from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. Canadian Journal Of Urban Research, 21(1), 151-168.
Fox, K. (1999). The influence of physical activity on mental well-being. Public Health Nutrition, 2(3a), 411-418. doi:10.1017/S1368980099000567
Hye-Youn, P., Gilbreath, S., Barakatt, E., & Park, H. (2017). Respiratory outcomes of ultrafine particulate matter (UFPM) as a surrogate measure of near-roadway exposures among bicyclists. Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source, 161-7. doi:10.1186/s12940-017-0212-x
Macmillan, A., Connor, J., Witten, K., Kearns, R., Rees, D., & Woodward, A. (2014). The Societal Costs and Benefits of Commuter Bicycling: Simulating the Effects of Specific Policies Using System Dynamics Modeling. Environmental Health Perspectives, 122(4), 335-344. doi:10.1289/ehp.1307250
Stanley J. Colcombe, Kirk I. Erickson, Paige E. Scalf, Jenny S. Kim, Ruchika Prakash, Edward McAuley, Steriani Elavsky, David X. Marquez, Liang Hu, Arthur F. Kramer; Aerobic Exercise Training Increases Brain Volume in Aging Humans, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 61, Issue 11, 1 November 2006, Pages 1166–1170, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/61.11.1166
Vlachopoulos, D., Barker, A. R., Williams, C. A., Knapp, K. M., Metcalf, B. S., & Gracia-Marco, L. (2015). Effect of a program of short bouts of exercise on bone health in adolescents involved in different sports: the PRO-BONE study protocol. BMC Public Health, 15(1), 1-10. doi:10.1186/s12889-015-1633-5