Friday, May 15, 2020

Mental Health Benefits of Cycling

Friends of the Pacific Electric Trail
Is it a coincidence that May is both “Bike Month” and “Mental Health Awareness month?”  I think not.  Springtime represents the rebirth of growth when we look forward to our gardens in bloom.  It is the perfect month to kick up our exercise habits and challenge ourselves to higher activity levels.  Cyclists have always known the benefits of cycling drastically affect our overall wellness and it has been shown to help build cognitive function and aid emotional health by helping to reduce stress and anxiety. A regular cycling regimen is not just fun, it can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and help manage weight.


Who does not want lower cholesterol, increased flexibility, and better sleep?  The brain needs a steady supply of blood to transport oxygen and nutrients for it to function at its best, which makes exercise especially important.  As you ride a bike, your overall circulation is at it is optimum, increasing the production of neurons that lead to the formation of new brain cells.  The cycling community has known all along how energized they feel after a ride and how that feeling of exhilaration becomes something to look forward to.  In my previous sales career, I worked with several cyclists who were goal driven and competitive. One of them would not take his much-anticipated weekend bike ride unless he hit a certain sales goal.  Talk about motivation!

For many regular cyclists, they experience a “natural high” after an especially long or difficult ride, whether it is in the form of improved mood, reduced stress, or enhanced memory. Cycling is one of the activities that has been shown to produce a natural cannabinoid called anandamide.  Cycling may help to prevent and treat depression and anxiety in the brain by lowering cortisol levels that contribute to emotional health and well-being.  Like runners who run on a regular basis, the body craves the endorphin rush and can feel out of balance if they cannot get in their run, same for cyclists.
C Y C L I N G  &  P H Y S I C A L  H E A L T H
Courtesy of
The physical benefits of cycling are so subtle but noticeable when we take a second look in the mirror.  Our clothes fit better, the muscles in our legs gradually become more defined and our overall endurance and increased energy keep us coming back for more.  Who can argue with a good night’s sleep after a great bike ride?  Going outside for fresh air and sunshine can help boost vitamin D that is produced in the skin from UVB sunlight exposure and is transported to the liver and then the kidney where it is changed into an active hormone that increases calcium transport from food in the gut and ensures that calcium is adequate to keep the skeleton strong and free of osteoporosis. 
Courtesy of CiclLAvia 
CicLAvia is an open street phenomenon and a seasonal community that brings together diverse local people to explore and experience "vibrant public spaces, active transportation and good health through car-free street events. CicLAvia, like many other organizations, had to recalibrate the way they celebrate Bike Month and Mental Health Month in May. They launched a virtual Facebook program called “Headspace” to help us stress less, Move More and sleep soundly.  Headspace is free for folks who live in Los Angeles County, and they have created a similar site for those who don’t live in Los Angeles County: “Weathering the Storm”  Both apps provide tips for guided meditations, sleep exercises including music and stories and even motivation boosting exercises you can do at work or at home.
Whatever you do to celebrate Bike Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, remember to ask a friend to join you.  We want to hear from you, so please share your story with us at #MyTrailStory.  Until next time, “See you on the Trail."

Friends of the Pacific Electric Trail

How Cycling Can Improve Your Mental Health
March 10, 2020

- Victoria Jones Friend of the Pacific Electric Trail
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