Numerous scientific studies have linked exercise with improved mental health, and with one in four of us likely to experience a mental health problem (according to the charity Mind), physical activity seems like an excellent place to start in improving our overall wellbeing, whether we’re fighting off day-to-day stress or combating the symptoms of an ongoing condition.
There are lots of good reasons why using your bike should be your physical activity of choice for improving your mental health.
Here are our top five:
1. It gets you out in the open
While all exercise is good exercise, doing it nature gives you bonus points according to a study in Science Daily. The results showed that getting moving out in the open leaves you feeling revitalised, energised and optimistic in a way that bouncing around a gym can’t, while feelings of tension and anger were reduced too. 17% fewer people who stopped cycling consider their lives worthwhile, in comparison to those who continued. So, ditch the gym and get on your bike to soak up the scenery, sunshine and positive vibes.
2. Aerobic exercise reduces anxiety
A study in Science Direct showed that aerobic exercise, of which running and cycling are great examples, can significantly reduce feelings of anxiety, potentially preventing anxiousness from developing into full-blown panic attacks or disorders. A recent study showed that 18% more of people who ride a bike every day consider their life happy, compared to people who tried and stopped cycling. Any type of aerobic exercise will do the trick, but a bike ride is low-impact (so great for those of us worried about bad knees) and gets you out into nature where you’ll soak up even more beneficial side-effects.
3. You can ride a bike socially
When it comes to riding a bike, you have the choice between whether you want to go solo or make it a social activity. According to a large study published in the Lancet, team sports are the best for improving mental health, with riding a bike coming a close second. Imagine the benefits of grabbing some friends, family or co-workers and going for a bike ride as a team sport. If you’re after a family affair, you can find and register for your local, traffic-free HSBC UK Lets Ride event here, or take a look at the Ride Social programme or Women’s only HSBC UK Breeze Rides that are inclusive of any age, background or ability.
4. It’s a proven stress-reliever
Regularly riding a bike is proven to reduce stress in itself. 15% more of people who ride a bike every day are satisfied with their lives than people who haven’t biked since becoming an adult. But there are other ways it could help. For example, in the long-term regular cycling can work out cheaper than a gym membership, which could alleviate financial worries. Plus, a 30-minute bout of daily exercise can boost memory and creative thinking, which could help you feel more positive about work.
5. It’s easy to fit into your daily life
Unlike dragging yourself to and from the gym, riding a bike can be woven into your daily routine without disrupting it. Those who swap their dreary commutes for cycling to and from work have a much lower risk of feeling stressed, and there is research to suggest that making regular exercise a part of your lifestyle - like working it into a hobby or daily routine - can better improve your overall mood and wellbeing.