All physical activity is beneficial for our mental health, but for me cycling has made a bigger difference than any other sport. For me, cycling and mental health go hand in hand.
I have always enjoyed cycling, but never realised how much I loved it until I got my bike in August last year after cycling around on the Santander rental bikes. I think why is love it so much is the freedom having my bike has given me. It has allowed me to get out of my local area without having to use public transport.
I think that’s why it has been more important than any other physical activity over the lockdown months. I enjoy running as well, but I can only go so far on foot whereas on the bike, I can go for dozens of kilometres. And I’m not alone in reaping the benefits of cycling on mental health as you can see from the quote below.
What Cycling 4 Mental Health said about cycling and mental health?
I went to see friends of mine for lunch (well; they are more like parents to me).
I was telling them how hard the last few months have been on my mental health, and how much I have had to battle just to function.
Difficulty for me is that I get overwhelmed with the future and everything that I have to do and eventually this mountain of expectation I have for myself becomes so big, I get petrified of what’s to come.
They gave simple, yet so profound, advice. For the next 100 days, all you’ve got to do is to take a day at the time. Each day start fresh, regardless of the previous day’s outcome, and only think about that day.
It’s so simple, right? I mean I do that when I go on a long bike ride. All I think of is that first hour, hour and a half of riding. Then I stop, drink, have a gel, eat, get energy and start again. You do a few stops like that and before you know it, you’ve done your first, second or maybe tenth 100 mile bike ride.
So for the next 100 days, challenge your thinking, and only focus on one day at the time and don’t dwell on yesterday (what could have been) or tomorrow (what might be) and I’ll call it #100daysFor100miles.
You can also find Cycling 4 Mental Health on Instagram.
So how does cycling benefit mental wellbeing?
- Cycling improves your mood. Runners talk about a ‘runner’s high’, cyclists about ‘cycling high’. For me, personally, the latter definitely tops the former. Your blood circulates around your body at a higher rate when you are cycling and spreads endorphins – the magic that makes us feel better – faster.
- It helps you sleep better. Regular cycling can help reduce the levels of stress hormones. And less stress equals better sleep. I also always find that I sleep better when I’ve been riding. I’m physically and mentally readier for a good night’s sleep having spent plenty of energy.
- Cycling can improve your memory (which I definitely need since I think I’m still suffering from chemo brain). When you cycle, it helps to build new brain cells that handle memory.
- It improves creative thinking. The uniform movement of pedalling can relax the brain, which can increase your creativity. I have noticed that cycling home from work helps to clear my brain out of work thoughts and make space for writing thoughts.
- Cycling can promote new thought patterns and these thought patterns can promote feelings of calm and wellbeing. Some say they use cycling as meditation and it kind of is. At least it can be when cycling somewhere nice and traffic free like along the river. It’s harder to switch off when navigating the busy roads to and from work. But I’m not complaining. I’d still much rather be on my bike that stuck in traffic.
Cycling also has social benefits
Since I got my bike, I have discovered there are many cycling groups in London that I could join. Lots of people enjoy cycling in groups and it can be great for meeting like-minded people. Personally, I enjoy cycling on my own and with Justin rather than in large groups. I think I benefit most of the effects of cycling on mental health when I don’t have to talk to people and can just focus on the road ahead of me.
However, I enjoy having a chat with other cyclists when we stop. Richmond, for example, is a great hub for cyclists and you can always have a chat with people who have stopped around the cafes.
When I’m running, I never talk to people. I guess it’s because I just keep bounding the road until I get home again. Whereas with cycling, especially when I’m out for longer rides, I stop and talk to people. I haven’t even been riding that long, but on most rides I have chatted with some interesting people.
I can’t wait for all the people we will meet on our ride across Europe.
It feels very fitting to finish with this quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without a thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
I would love to hear in the comments how you have been looking after your mental health during these challenging times. Let’s share our tips for mental wellbeing!
Thank you for being here and reading the post.
Until next time!
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