Here at See.Sense, we spend a lot of time talking about the benefits of cycling and active travel. Cycling acts as a great source of exercise, is cheaper than driving, and leads to cleaner cities for all. The positives are nearly endless. Yet, there’s one more benefit of cycling that perhaps doesn’t get the attention it should - a healthier mental wellbeing.
That’s why, to mark World Mental Health Day 2022, we’re shining a light on the benefits of cycling to mental health, and sharing some comments from our community of riders on how cycling has helped their own mental health.
How can Cycling Benefit Your Mental Health?
It’s no secret that the exercise provided by cycling can act as a fantastic mental health booster. While the traditional focus on exercise has been on its important physical benefits, it’s becoming increasingly clear that exercise is also super important for maintaining our mental well-being. Indeed, research has shown that ‘both high and low-intensity exercise reduce anxiety sensitivity.’
What’s more, for many people cycling is a much easier way of fitting exercise into their busy schedule. Swapping your commute from four wheels to two can provide a convenient burst of exercise before and after work, leaving your evenings and mornings free, and ensuring you’re getting the exercise needed to boost your mental health.
Along with exercise, getting into the outdoors and fresh air is another fantastic way to help your mental health. Luckily, cycling provides both of these benefits! Getting fresh air not only helps our minds be more productive and focused, but also triggers the release of serotonin, which promotes a sense of happiness and well-being.
Humans are social creatures, so any activity that can promote spending time in good company will have a positive effect on our mental health. One of the great things about cycling is that it is an extremely social activity. There’s a plethora of cycling clubs and groups out there suited to all ages and abilities, and these are a fantastic way of meeting like-minded people and making friends. You can find a club in Britain through our partners at British Cycling, or in Ireland through our partners at Cycling Ireland.
Lastly, it shouldn’t be overlooked that riding a bike is just really fun. Aside from all the benefits we’ve already listed, it can’t be overlooked that feeling the breeze against your face and pedalling along is an enjoyable thing to do! This has even been highlighted by Professor Susan Handy of the University of Davis, California. Her research reveals that the ‘fun factor’ of cycling - having fun and being relaxed in the saddle - is the number one reason people cycle, and is a stronger draw than helping the environment or saving money on fuel.
How Cycling has Helped See.Sense Cyclists:
Last year, we conducted a Cycling Mental Health Survey, in which over 250 members of the See.Sense community answered the question, ‘How does cycling make you feel?’ The answers submitted were incredibly insightful and showed that for so many, cycling is more than simply a form of exercise or a method of travel, but one of the cornerstones of their mental well-being. As such, we’ve anonymously shared some of the responses that stuck with us the most below to display just how important cycling is for so many people:
"Cycling gives me a sense of freedom, calm and wellbeing"
"I have long term anxiety and low self esteem, I started to cycle to work in lock down last year. The transition between home and work whilst cycling has been really good for my anxiety. Over the past year I have become much more confident on my bike and in myself, leading to quite significant life changes. It's been amazing. On top of that I have encouraged my friends to come out cycling with me at weekends and it has had positive impacts on them too."
"Cycling makes me come alive."
"Life changing. Absolute freedom. Can't live without it."
"I stopped drinking 32 years ago. I took up cycling. Became an All Ireland champion at 40 ( 3 events ) Cycling saved my life.. And continues to do so."
"I am a police officer and sometimes jobs stick in my head. I believe cycling helps me switch off and clear my mind."
"I started cycling 4 1/2 years ago after my partner passed away and I have so much to be happy about with cycling, I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't because of riding and meeting so many new people and making such great friends from it."
To view the full results of our Cycling Mental Health Survey, click here.
Thanks for reading - we hope you get the chance to head out for a ride this World Mental Health Day, you won't regret it! For more information on WMHD 2022, click here.
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