How Cycling Improves Your Mental Health and Makes Your Brain Stronger

Did you know that simple act of going for a bike ride can significantly boost your mood and increase mental acuity?

To many, the thought of performing physical exercise to reap mental rewards might seem outlandish or outright strange, but stepping outside and getting a breath of fresh air can do more than just shake away the doldrums. By taking up the healthy and affordable pastime of cycling, you can take steps to boost your mood and lower your stress levels, while gaining a little physical fitness for your time and effort.

Before you begin, it’s important to get a handle of the basics of bike riding and to set realistic and attainable goals for yourself. No one simply rolls out of bed fully prepared to go for a twenty-mile bike ride, so start slow and pace yourself!

That goes for the gearing up stage of preparing to cycle, too; there’s no reason to run out and buy a several thousand dollar bike before you know you’re ready to spend some time riding it.

Before You Begin

For beginners, make sure you buy protective gear first and foremost to ensure that you don’t take any nasty spills while out and about, should your balance or the terrain suddenly fail you. A helmet and pads for your knees and elbows are always a solid investment, along with proper cyclist gloves for grip and added protection as well.

Your bike is another story. It may be tempting to buy a streamlined bike made for city riding and paved surfaces, but these bikes suffer greatly when it comes to off-road performance. The average beginner is much better off with a multipurpose mountain bike on the lower end of the price spectrum to allow you to easily float between roadways and unpaved paths.

The Brain-Boosting Power of Exercise

The human brain is infinitely complex and has many curiosities linked to how it performs under stress, duress and even after something as simple as physical exercise. Cycling has many benefits, ranging from improving your brain’s physical connections that allow it to run as smoothly as possible, all the way up to actual mood-boosting effects as it lowers stress-inducing hormones.

Even those suffering from serious psychological disorders report an improvement in behavior and mood after exercise. A study in the Netherlands that tested both schizophrenia patients and average adults showed improvements in brain matter connections after bike riding, helping to illustrate how healthy it can be for anyone, no matter their mental state.

Getting Outside: Escape Your Daily Routine

Exercising outside just plain helps your brain. Many common sources of stress and anxiety triggers revolve around a daily routine and how humans fall into patterns of rising and falling stress that are often buried rather than dealt with. As a result, it isn’t uncommon for individuals to become complacent with stress and expect it to be some sort of insurmountable obstacle.

The simple act of going outdoors and performing physically strenuous activities can seriously boost your mood and help shake up the routine you’ve become accustomed to, however.

Whether you have issues with anger, depression, anxiety or simply feel like you’re not getting the most out of life, taking a bike ride is a sure-fire way to make yourself feel better for a while. Even simulating the outdoors can trick our brains into feeling more upbeat!

Incorporating cycling into your daily routine can give an additional benefit that you may not have considered: You won’t have to sit in traffic for several hours every day.

We lose many a precious hour sitting sedentary in gridlocked traffic, waiting for lights to change or for other drivers to make way, but taking a bike to and from work might just help you skip the waiting and get in several hours of healthy, life-extending exercise without cutting into your free time.

Furthermore, practicing good cycling habits can seriously improve your exercise quality and generally leave you both happier and healthier in the end.

Memory Boosts and Brain Power Aplenty

Further along the line of strange mental growth in tune with physical exercise, physically fit people may just have better brains than they’re often given credit for. In a memory-focused study performed primarily with physically fit applicants, hippocampus size and general memory performanc¬†have proven itself to be significantly higher than in those who do not exercise regularly.

With potential boosts as high as forty percent, it’s difficult to argue against just how helpful physical exercise can be when it comes to honing our minds as well as our bodies. You might even avoid dementia and other late-life disabilities if you keep yourself fit.

Overall, exercise via cycling is a fun and beneficial way to see more of the outdoors and give your mind something to look forward to. You’ll thank yourself twenty years down the line when your mind remains sharp and you feel younger than you really are!

Amanda Wilks
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Amanda Wilks is a passionate writer with a great interest in everything related to health, sports, and social activism. If you're interested in reading more of Amanda's writings, go on Twitter. 

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