Cycling as a form of exercise has been well-documented as an effective way to improve your physical and emotional health. Exercise contributes to many health benefits including improvements in sleep, heightened libido, stress relief, increased energy, weight loss, reductions in fatigue, and improved cardiovascular fitness and cholesterol. Exercise also has been shown to improve anxiety, depression, mood, self-esteem, and cognitive functioning. This because when an individual engages in regular exercise, blood circulation to the brain increases, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which plays an integral in maintaining our body’s equilibrium and stress response, is able to regulate stress more effectively. Research also demonstrates that the benefits of exercise can be enhanced when combined with environmental stimulation, in other words – exercise in the great outdoors!
Cycling can be an extremely effective way to improve physical and mental health, as it is an accessible, low-impact, and fun way to engage your body and brain.
Benefits of Cycling on Mental Health
- Cycling improves mood by increasing blood flow to the body, and thus the spread of endorphins and feel-good neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
- Cycling helps improve self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and stress, due to the very nature of the exercise – It is reminiscent of nostalgic childhood experiences and provides environmental exposure and engagement with one’s surroundings.
- Regular cycling has been shown to help promote better sleep quality and sleep efficiency through synchronizing circadian rhythms and reducing stress hormones that contribute to poor sleep quality, efficiency, and duration.
- Cycling is good for our brain functioning and memory. The act of cycling contributes to the increased production of new brain cells responsible for memory and recall.
- Cycling can offer an opportunity to engage in mindfulness. Cyclers can use a ride to concentrate on the rhythm of their breath, each movement of their legs, the wind on their face, and body to center themselves and increase positive thoughts and feelings.
Benefits of Cycling on the Brain
- Similar to the way bike riding promotes muscle growth, it can also promote brain growth. As cycling promotes increased blood flow to the brain, this helps the brain and body pull in more oxygen and nutrients that can improve cycling performance and brain functioning.
- Riding a bicycle leads to the production of proteins that help create 2-3x more brain cells than normal patterns of brain cell reproduction.
- Taking a ride on a bike has also demonstrated efficacy in preventing natural cognitive decline as a result of aging.
30-60 minutes of steady riding, with approximately 75% of our maximum heart rate, 3-5 times a week, is recommended as the best cycling practice to reap the best rewards of this fun and rewarding exercise.
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