If you’ve ever cycled to work and felt happier and more alert than usual, you were likely taking advantage of cycling’s scientifically documented positive effects on mental wellbeing.
To lose weight and lead a better lifestyle, many people have taken up cycling. Cycling frequently can, however, help people of all physical health levels strengthen their minds.
In this article, we will be discussing the relationship between cycling and the brain, and how this form of aerobic exercise can improve a person’s mental health overall.
What Happens To Your Brain While Cycling?
The exact way that cycling helps your muscles expand, it also helps your brain to grow.
When you cycle, the blood flow to the muscles rises, enabling your body to develop new capillaries and provide the muscles with far more oxygenated blood.
Our brains actually go through the same process. By delivering our brains additional oxygen and other nutrients that can enhance their efficiency, cycling enables our cardiovascular system to extend further into our neurons.
Our brains produce more of the enzymes needed to generate new brain cells when we are cycling. Our brains produce twice as many new cells when we bike frequently.
Additionally, it raises neurotransmitter production, which enhances brain communication across different parts of the brain and enhances cognitive function.
Cycling has several advantages, especially for maturing brains. These procedures offset the aging brain’s normal loss in growth and function.
Researchers analyzed the brains of 60 and 70-year-old individuals, and discovered that many of those who frequently engaged in physical activities, including cycling, had ‘younger’ appearing brains compared to those who did not.
This demonstrates how cycling can help us maintain mental acuity far into our elder years.
Can Cycling Help Improve Your Mental Health?
In recent years, people of all ages have been put under strenuous amounts of stress due to a number of factors. The costs of living are only increasing with time, and we have lived through – and, are still currently living through – a global pandemic.
According to research, 1 in 15 adults suffer from depression, and 1 in 6 people will experience depression or another severe type of mental health decline at some point in their lives.
The statistics indicate that approximately 3.4 percent of individuals worldwide—or more than 260 million people—suffer from depression.
According to government figures, the number of adults over the age of 18 experiencing psychological discomfort increased by approximately 1/3 when the Covid-19 pandemic began at the beginning of 2020.
Many nations were forced into lockdowns at this time, forcing many people to isolate for months on end with their families, or even alone.
Interestingly, during the first half of the year 2020, many people decided to take up cycling. As the UK went into its first lockdown in 2020, there was a 19% increase in the number of cyclists in that nation.
This could have resulted from the fact that many people no longer had a need to drive or take public transportation as a result of losing their jobs. Instead, exercising—which included cycling—became a well-liked activity.
Many others found that exercising outside was the only way they could and would leave their homes for weeks at a time.
We are all aware that cycling is a great form of exercise, engaging the legs and core in continuous, sometimes strenuous movements. However, it is important to take into consideration the impact that cycling can have on a person’s mental health, too.
Cycling Increases Your Mental Capacity
There’s a logical reason why studies suggest that after a bike ride, our mental abilities improve, involving the nerve endings inside our brains. These nerve endings create what is known as ‘white matter’, which serves as a funnel connecting various parts of the brain.
A fairly recent Dutch study, researched over a six-month period, revealed that participants who cycled frequently had more white matter integrity than those who didn’t. Their brains performed more efficiently as a result of this increase.
This white matter helps improve a person’s mental capacity, including their ability to solve problems, balance their moods, and to remember things clearly.
Cycling Improves Your Cognitive Performance
All forms of cardiovascular exercise can benefit the brain, since they regulate blood flow to the brain, which supplies it with oxygen and nutrients.
Committed exercisers typically notice that, as they get older, their reasoning, comprehension, and reasoning remain just as sharp as they did when they were younger.
This association between aerobic exercise and cognitive ability, however, is not limited to the elderly. Many adolescents and young adults also report that a bike ride helps improve their cognitive abilities.
During a recent study, a group of healthful young men rode exercise bikes for 30 minutes at a time, at a moderate speed. Before and after the workout, the group took a number of tests to analyze their mental capacities.
According to the study, the participants performed better on memorization, organizing, and logical assessments after their 30-minute cycling workout, and were even able to finish the tasks more quickly.
Therefore, there is scientific evidence that cycling, along with other forms of aerobic exercise, can improve a person’s cognitive performance.
Cycling Can Decrease Anxiety
According to estimates, 4.7% of adults experience anxiety disorders, which translates to nearly 12 million adults in the United States, and 350 million worldwide.
We’ve already highlighted how regular exercise can fight stress and sadness, but it also benefits those with anxiety disorders greatly.
Cycling for less than 60 minutes majorly increases the body’s ability to manufacture the endocannabinoid anandamide, according to one study.
This substance is a naturally occurring chemical that aids in controlling a variety of bodily functions, including stress and anxiety.
Additionally associated to lowering anxiety is cycling. A study involving nearly 300 students discovered that biking could help lessen anxiety symptoms.
Cycling Enhances Your Wellbeing
Cycling to work is thought to be one of the finest daily strategies to enhance wellbeing. Using a bike to travel around can help lessen levels of stress and combat feelings of loneliness, according to a study conducted in many European cities.
The study contrasted various modes of transportation, including walking, driving, and using public transportation, and found that cycling was the best option for improving your wellbeing as a whole.
The study found that people who commute by bicycle or on foot have less stress and can focus better than those who drive to work. The very same study discovered that travelers who switched from driving to cycling reported feeling better mentally as a response.
How Often To Cycle To Improve Your Health
It is true that too intense cycling might cause our vitality to decline as our bodies lose nutrients, so unless you are already an avid cyclist, you may want to start off taking baby steps.
According to scientists, a decent balance is 30 to 60 minutes of sustained riding at a good, steady speed. It’s also advised to keep our heart rates at about 75% of our maximum.
Since this is a generalized estimate for the average person, it is essential to cycle according to one’s capabilities. You must assess your individual limitations in order to determine what actually works for you, as what works for one person may not work for another.
Overall, several studies have been conducted in order to determine the relationship between cycling and mental health.
The majority of these studies have concluded that, providing the individual does not push themselves too hard, cycling can create a positive impact on their mental health.
Cycling can improve a person’s mental capacity, cognitive performance, and wellbeing, as well as decreasing unwanted disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
If you are looking for a new way to exercise, or to simply get out of the house and clear your mind for an hour or two, we definitely recommend going for a bike ride.
We hope you found this article helpful.