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The Mental Benefits of Cycling

August 05, 2020
The Mental Benefits of Cycling

The physical and physiological benefits of cycling are well-documented. To wit, health enthusiast Alek Asaduryan details how cycling is a low impact exercise that can help in weight maintenance, lower body strengthening, core enhancement, and balance improvement. Indeed, writer James Gonzales notes how such exercise is crucial to maintaining good health, which is why it's important to set aside time for it during the week. However, cycling can do more for you than you think, as it can also benefit your brain both structurally and functionally. Here's how.

1. Cycling makes you happy.

Happiness is vital to good mental health, and pedaling away causes palpable joy. DoctorNDTV explains how just 10 minutes of cycling can make you happier, as it stimulates the release of the so-called happy hormones: serotonin and endorphins. Both of these naturally occurring chemicals induce positivity and help ease pain at the same time. The more you cycle, the more these happy hormones will course through your body — to the benefit of your mental health.

2. Cycling offers stress relief.

Central to happiness is the reduction of stress. Cycling helps in that regard by balancing your body’s cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, acting as the body’s alarm system that triggers that “fight-or-flight” instinct. Elevated cortisol levels can keep you in fight-or-flight mode, causing heightened feelings of duress and stress. Once on the saddle, you’ll be focusing on breathing, keeping your balance, and pedaling — combined, these can produce a calming effect that’ll ease your body’s cortisol production. Put simply, cycling is a healthy way to de-stress.

3. Cycling boosts self-belief.

Low self-esteem can cause anxiety or even depression. Fortunately, the article ‘7 Ways Cycling Benefits Your Mental Health’ points out that cycling can help make you believe in yourself more. That’s in part due to the body producing more serotonin (see #1), which has been shown to enhance feelings of self-confidence as well. Aside from that, achieving cycling-related milestones — assaulting a tough hill, clocking a personal best time, etc. — will not only make you feel good about yourself, but also strong, powerful, and accomplished.

4. Cycling improves cognitive function.

Good mental health also means having a well-functioning mind. Research published in PLOS ONE strongly suggests that cycling helps in that aspect, too, with participants in said study demonstrating enhanced cognitive function, particularly in the areas attentional control, cognitive inhibition, and working memory. Interestingly, it's not just the act of pedaling that's responsible for these improvements, as engaging with the outdoor environment and feelings of independence and mobility are also seen as extremely helpful for the brain.

5. Cycling helps in BDNF production.

For the mind to function optimally, it’ll need to be healthy. The protein brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) helps ensure that by keeping existing neurons in good condition and by helping in the creation of new ones. Physical activity such as cycling can beef up your brain's BDNF levels, thereby ensuring healthy brain function and protecting it from neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Taking into account cycling's many benefits, we certainly recommend that you get on the saddle. In case going out for a ride is not feasible, you can always train indoors in the meantime using the humble Indoor Trainer. It's a safe way to pedal away and will give you most of the benefits of cycling — including the mental ones.

Post solely for the use of By Ashley Gibbens.

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