Is biking good for mental health? To answer this question, you must first understand that mental and physical health are fundamentally linked. When your body feels good, your mental health will improve. You have more drive to keep your body healthy when you have excellent mental health. Cycling for mental health is an excellent way to improve overall health because it provides critical benefits for your body and mind.
For those physically able, adding cycling to your routine at least twice a week can help you see immediate improvements in your overall well-being. Continuing with a cycling program in the long term can show additional effects. Keep reading to learn what benefits you can expect when you start cycling for mental health, along with tips on how to get the most benefit out of your new routine.
1. Improves Your Mood
Bicycling has been shown to improve your mood in a few different ways. For example:
- Cycling has been proven to maintain adequate blood flow to the brain, improving your mood while enhancing your memory, creative thinking and overall cognitive abilities.
- A reduction in stress will naturally boost your mood.
- Cycling increases your confidence and self-esteem, which makes you feel naturally more positive and optimistic.
- Physical exercise generally enhances physical health, leading to greater happiness.
2. Helps You Sleep Better
Cycling reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, which can lead to more restful sleep. Cortisol can block people from falling into a deep sleep, the phase where your body rejuvenates and does the most healing. Plus, physical exercise can help you sleep better simply because it uses up your body’s energy reserves. This particular cycling benefit will be most noticeable for those living sedentary lifestyles.
3. Reduces Stress
Cycling benefits include increased amounts of serotonin and decreased amounts of cortisol. Serotonin is a natural human hormone that plays a critical role in many body functions, including balancing your mood. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is mainly involved with your fight-or-flight response.
Cycling outdoors (rather than indoors on a stationary bike) can provide additional stress-busting benefits. Studies have shown that spending time outside can reduce stress and make you feel happier. As a bonus, being outdoors provides key physical benefits, too. Fresh air can be excellent for your lungs, especially if you live in a highly populated area with smog or other pollutant issues. In addition, sunshine increases your body’s vitamin D levels.
4. Can Help Manage Depression
The mood-boosting benefits of cycling apply to those with depression, too. Depression has been linked to low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. But physical exercise can stimulate these neurotransmitters to make them work better while potentially increasing the amounts in your body. Plus, the adrenaline released while exercising can provide a quick but effective boost to your mood, so you start to feel better almost immediately.
5. Boosts Your Self-Esteem
Cycling makes you feel good because, like other forms of physical exercise, it causes your body to release endorphins. Endorphins are responsible for what some call a “runner’s high.” You can receive the same feeling by riding your bike. These endorphins make you feel better about yourself and happier overall.
Of course, physical exercise can also help by facilitating weight loss or healthy weight management. This can help boost your confidence and encourage you to continue taking better care of yourself physically.
6. Enhances Creative Thinking and Cognitive Abilities
One study found that cycling increases the amount of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in your body. BDNF helps create more neurons and supports existing ones, improving overall neurological functioning. Plus, boosting your body’s BDNF can help decrease the risks of certain neurological conditions like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
7. Promotes an Overall Healthier Lifestyle
Cycling is good for you, period. It’s a low-impact exercise that’s easy on your joints and requires only one piece of equipment, a bicycle. Besides the many mental health benefits listed here, cycling can also help you lose weight, build muscle, improve heart health and enhance lung functioning.
The best part? Cycling can easily be worked into your schedule because it can also be used as a mode of transportation. For example, you can use your bicycle when running errands within a mile or two (depending on your current stamina). Of course, you can also go cycling in nature, while on vacation or just around the block a few times.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Cycling for Mental Health
Even one cycling session can provide short-term benefits that significantly improve your quality of life over the next few hours or days. But to get the most out of cycling for mental health, you should:
- Work cycling into your routine so you take a ride at least two or three times per week.
- Stick with cycling for at least several weeks to see the most benefits.
- Start cycling slowly so you don’t injure yourself by doing too much too soon.
- Pair cycling with medication, therapy and positive coping mechanisms (for those with mental health conditions).
- Pair cycling with other forms of physical exercise, proper hydration and a balanced diet (for everyone).
- Remember to use a helmet so you don’t risk serious injury if you fall.
- If you plan on cycling near a road, always look both ways before crossing the street to stay safe.
Reap the Benefits of Cycling for Mental Health Today
Cycling is a low-impact exercise with many physical and mental health benefits that almost anyone can do. For those struggling with mental health conditions, cycling can serve as an important part of a comprehensive treatment plan, potentially complementing other therapies and medications.
If adding cycling for mental health isn’t enough to help you deal with your stress, anxiety or depression, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Our compassionate team of counselors is standing by 24/7 to take your call, so contact us now. Start your road to mental wellness today.