Mental Health Benefits of Cycling: Improve Your Brain, Beat Depression
The mental health benefits of cycling can be just as great as the physical ones. Learn how cycling improves your brain chemistry, helps you beat depression and anxiety, boosts your congnitive ability and memory, and, after all, makes you a happier person.
How does cycling help your body? To remain healthy and fit, you must be active physically. Exercising regularly protects you from diseases like mental illness, heart disease, obesity, arthritis, and diabetes. Cycling is among the best ways to reduce health risks related to a sedentary lifestyle. It is a low-impact exercise that people of all ages can engage in and it is also fun and affordable.
Research has also found out that cycling daily is not only a healthy activity for the body but for the brain as well. If you cycle to your place of work and feel that your mood and mental ability have improved, then you are experiencing the benefits of cycling on the brain.
How cycling improves your brain chemistry
A mere thirty minutes of cycling can improve your planning, reasoning, and memory. There are also other scientifically proven benefits for emotional health that help tackle anxiety and depression.
Cycling makes the brain grow the same way it can make your muscles grow. During cycling, the blood flow to the muscles increases. This allows the body to create more capillaries which give more blood to the muscles. The supply of more blood also implies that more oxygen is supplied to the muscles.
The exact same process takes place in the brain. Cycling lets the cardiovascular system stimulate the brain. This brings more nutrients and oxygen and thus improves performance.
When you ride your bicycle, your brain also increases protein production used to create new brain cells. Cycling often doubles or even triples the production of new cells in the brain. It also improves neurotransmitter activity thus letting the sections of the brain interact better. This, therefore, improves your cognitive ability.
Cycling benefits are even more important for the aging brain. These processes impede the natural decline as one grows old.
Researchers compared the brains of people in their sixties and seventies. They found out that the brains of those who engaged in physical activities like cycling appeared younger. This is also a proof that cycling helps keep your mind sharp when you get old.
In another study, researchers found out that people got higher scores on reasoning, planning, and memory tests after cycling for thirty minutes than before. Also, they completed the tests much faster after cycling. So cycling regularly is a scientifically proven way of improving your brain.
How cycling benefits mental health
There are many other mental health benefits of cycling apart from improving your brain. A lot of evidence supports the idea that cycling also has emotional benefits. For instance, it can:
- Banish blues
- Improve your mood
- Improve stress resistance
- Ease your anxiety
No matter how old you are, you will experience the benefits of cycling on your psychological health regardless of your physical health. Your self-perception and self-worth sense can improve. This will lead to having a higher self-esteem. Research shows that those improvements are even better in patients suffering from mild depression and other mental health problems. These improvements can be more effective than those after psychotherapy, and this makes cycling a much better method of treating depression.
Cycling often does not only help with mental health problems like depression and anxiety disorder, but it also assists in preventing them in the long-term. A research that evaluated twenty-six years of studies found out that even twenty to thirty minutes of cycling prevent depression. Experts do not fully understand the actual mechanism but they know that cycling improves the release of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin
Dopamine and serotonin are chemicals that make human beings feel happy once these hormones are produced in the brain. Scientists confirmed this benefit by analyzing the level of serotonin in the lab rats’ brains as they exercised more.
Dopamine and serotonin are not the only chemicals that make human beings feel happy during cycling. The body also produces cannabinoids and endorphins.
During cycling, the body improves its ability to modulate hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This leads to a better ability to deal with stress. Hormonal imbalance makes the body respond negatively to stress. So it is crucial to have a cycling routine to allow your body to deal with stress easily.
How to get the most benefit from cycling
How much should you cycle to benefit fully from this exercise? Does cycling too much deplete nutrients from the body? Scientists suggest that thirty to sixty minutes of steady cycling is what can make you benefit from it. It is also recommended to maintain a heart rate of about 75%.
Also, a recent research on depression and exercise suggested guidelines to beat the blues with the help of cycling. You need to cycle 3 to 5 times a week. Each cycling session should last 45-60 minutes. You must also keep your heart rate between fifty and eighty-five percent of your maximum. But this is simply a minimum recommendation for everyone. You can just cycle according to your own abilities.
Even though cycling is a healthy exercise, it can be stressful for your body. This can happen if you are a beginner or if you resume cycling after some time. When you begin to exert yourself for the first time, the body produces cortisol to increase the heart rate, blood glucose level, and blood pressure. As you become fitter, longer and harder cycling sessions are needed to trigger the same response. If you are active, a bigger crisis is required to trigger cortisol response compared to a sedentary person.
You should also ensure that your bicycle fits you well. Do not just buy a bicycle because it looks attractive. A bicycle that does not fit well can cause a lot of problems. For instance, if it is too big, it can cause back and neck problems.
You must consider the seat height too. A seat that is very low will stress your knees, which will lead to kneecap pain. A seat that is too high may also aggravate your knees.
You must also take the necessary precautions to ensure that all your rides are safe.
In conclusion, you do not have to cycle thousands of miles to get the mental health benefits of cycling. And whether you are young or old, cycling is a great workout with so much fun to keep you going.