5 Surprising Mental Health Benefits of Riding a Bike
If you’ve ever started a bike ride feeling a little bit grumpy but ended with an actual grin on your face, you’ve already experienced the endorphin boosting bonus of this outdoor activity. In fact, plenty of studies have shown that the mental health benefits of riding a bike can be traced beyond just getting some much-needed exercise. Whether you need proof that your bike riding habit is actually good for your brain or you were looking for a reason to start hitting the pedals on a more regular basis, go ahead and use this information however you need.
1. Reduces Stress, Anxiety and Depression
You could point out that any form of physical activity has been proven to help manage stress, anxiety and depression but let us remind you that the best kind of exercise is the kind you’ll do regularly. So if you’re as obsessed with biking as we are, you’ll be grateful for any excuse to add a bike ride into your everyday routine. Might we suggest taking a break from work to take a ride around the block or opting to cycle to your errands rather than driving? So long as you keep pedaling (and maybe using your Bluejay’s battery pack a little bit less than usual) and you’ll reap these mood-boosting feelings.
2. Improves Memory
Yes, there might still be hope for those of you who keep forgetting where you parked your bike. Biking is considered an aerobic exercise, which means that it conditions your heart to pump more blood, thus increasing both your heart rate and your breathing rate. One organ that really reaps the benefits from heart pumping exercise? The brain, duh. And it turns out that the region of your brain that is associated with memory tends to receive a boosted flow of blood during physical activity, nourishing it with nutrients and oxygen so you have a greater ability to remember things. Plus, different levels of exercise can actually improve different parts of your memory. For example, moderate exercise provides a boost to your associative memory (the kind that helps you remember people’s names) while intense exercise has a positive effect on memory and motor processes.
3. Helps With Executive Function
This one is for e-bikes specifically, because a recent study has proven that powered bikes are really effective at improving an individual’s ability to plan, focus, multi-task and remember instructions (all of which are considered executive function). This was not only due to an increase in physical activity, but also an uptick in outdoor time, plus an added sense of mobility and freedom. This was especially true for older adults, as “e-bikes require less physical exertion than the pedal bikes and often are more rewarding for participants to cycle as they can travel longer distances without having to worry about not being able to get back.” So yeah, getting grandma a Bluejay for her next birthday is the perfect gift!
4. Boosts the Brain’s Connectivity
We know, this is a pretty major claim, but hear us out. The different parts of the brain are connected by white matter, which acts as a subway system of sorts, and evidence has shown that practicing a motor skill can keep that system in good shape. (If it happens to fall into disrepair, it can lead to slower thinking and a few other cognitive issues.)
A study in the Netherlands with healthy subjects and Schizophrenia patients put this to the test, according to Psychology Today, by having half of the group ride stationary bikes. The conclusion of the study? “Brain scans showed that practicing pedaling on a regular basis increased the integrity of white matter fiber tracts in both healthy and schizophrenic brains.” How cool is that?!
5. Promotes Sleep
We’re gonna go ahead and make the assumption that you could use more sleep...because we could all use a little help reaching eight full hours each night. Luckily for us all, exercise can help improve not only the amount of time you stay asleep but the quality of said snoozing. What’s the catch? That exercise should be vigorous and it should be done on a regular basis. But you don’t have to dedicate hours and hours each day in order to feel more rested; studies have shown that even 75 minutes each week of sweaty physical activity could do the trick. Considering that’s shorter than most Netflix binges, we think that’s a pretty doable amount of time in front of your handlebars.