Apart Together: Cycling's Mental Health Benefits | Aventon
April 3, 2020
Cycling Might Be The Best Form of Therapy
You can’t always trust what you read on the internet, especially when it comes to quotes from famous people but we’re pretty confident that Albert Einstein did once say:
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”
We’ve been thinking about this quote a lot lately at Aventon as we all cope with how COVID-19 has impacted everyone’s lives. We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy as they are in isolation and self-quarantine. We know that working and being indoors all day for the last few weeks can get you feeling all cooped up with cabin fever, but there is a bright side. You’ve probably been spending more time and bonding with your family. Technology has certainly helped everyone stay in touch via social media and virtual hangouts.
Government officials everywhere are asking their citizens to stay home to flatten the curve. We wholeheartedly agree with this mandate. However, one of the details that everyone might overlook is that most shelter-in-place orders allow outdoor exercise, making it a valid and legal reason for you to be out of your house. As a company that creates bikes to enable freedom of movement, we will go even further and say that exercise should be considered “essential”.
Since this pandemic started, the Aventon team has noticed a lot more people outdoors everyday all while practicing social distancing. Your neighbors are probably still jogging and riding their bikes. We suggest that you join them. But before you call us out for suggesting such a foolish thing to do, please hear us out. By “join them”, we mean go ride your bike while keeping a safe distance from everyone. While you’re outside, smile at everyone you see, wave at everyone, say hi and tell them to have a nice day. These gestures take so little yet can mean so much in this challenging time.
As Outside magazine recently noted in their article, with fewer vehicles on the road and in the city streets, now is probably the best time to ride your bike. (We do highly advise that you check with your latest local jurisdiction mandates for their outdoor restrictions and adhere to them.) We’re not experts at how laws and ordinances are changed, but we hope that city officials everywhere see the way traffic and roads have been changed by this pandemic and review how they can incorporate and improve better road infrastructure for cycling.
The one consistent thing in these uncertain times is that cycling makes everyone happy. We all know that cycling brings people together figuratively, physically and creates communities of like-minded folks, but perhaps the bigger benefit for many people is that cycling brings a clarity of mind and thought.
Have you ever come back from a good ride and feel great physically and mentally? Or have you gone for a bike ride in the morning, go into work, and feel happy and productive? Cycling puts you in a good mood, but have you ever wondered why that is the case? That’s because when you exercise, your body releases a natural chemical called endorphins. It’s a scientific fact that endorphins trigger a positive response in your brain and good feeling in your body. That’s why the good feeling you get from exercising is called “euphoric”. For those who run, it’s often called a “runner’s high”. Cyclists get that same high feeling. Perhaps we need a similar name for cyclists. “Cyclist’s high”, anyone?
As WebMD stated:
Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines. However, unlike with morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body's endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.
Regular exercise has been proven to:
After a great ride, your body might be tired, but your mind is relaxed. You feel a sense of accomplishment which boosts your self-esteem and sense of well-being. Thanks to your workout, your pent up stress is reduced, your muscles are relaxed and in recovery mode.
These are physiological changes to your brain chemistry from exercise, but we can’t downplay the simple pleasure of taking a mental break that can’t be quantified in scientific terms. There’s also the old adage that sometimes all you need is some sunshine and fresh air. That might be some truth to this as research has shown that exercise can help with depression.
Because cycling is a low impact activity, your body, especially your knees, do not have to take all the stress of your legs pounding the pavement. In addition to the mental benefits, we can’t ignore the added benefits of physical health:
Before you start on any cycling or exercise regimen, we recommend that you first check with your doctor and follow your doctor’s recommendations. If you haven’t ridden a bike in years, ease back into it. It might feel strange at first, but as the saying goes, once you learn how to ride a bike, you’ll never forget.
Here are some tips to those getting back into riding a bike again:
- Take it easy at first to get comfortable pedaling again to avoid injuries
- Get familiar with the traffic flow near your home as those are the roads you’ll most frequently ride on
- Create a routine to keep yourself accountable. For example, make certain days of the week your ride days
- But variety is the spice of life, so it’s always fun to mix things up once in a while
- Be consistent and patient to see results, especially in your physical health and appearance
- If cycling becomes a chore or boring, take a break from it to recharge
- Always practice “safety first” by wearing a helmet and obey all traffic laws
We’ve had customers who told us that bikes have changed their lives. We will take a step further and say bikes might be the best value form of therapy out there. If you need any assistance with your decision to take up cycling again, we’re here to help guide you through the process.