Positive Effects of Cycling on Mental Health
Here at Mammoth we wanted to do our bit to highlight the importance of mental health and explain some of the effects that cycling has on mental wellness. As it is Mental Health Awareness Week we thought it would be apt to share the benefits of cycling and how this can assist in improving mental health.
We all know the physiological benefits of exercise – reduced blood pressure, enhanced cardiovascular fitness, weight loss, prevention of chronic disease; the list goes on and on. But what about the psychological improvements following exercise? Recent research shows that exercise can also help with improving mood state, self-esteem and lower stress, anxiety and depression. This has been linked to a variety of mechanisms through immune responses, physiological and psychological responses.
With the increasing number of people suffering from stress, anxiety and depression, health practitioners globally need to provide safe and cost effective management plans for individuals to combat these conditions. Alternative approaches to psychotherapy and medication have been shown to beneficial and possibly more cost effective. Exercise has been shown time and time again to provide evidence that it can significantly improve mental health and lessen symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
Graeme Obree, who twice broke the hour cycling world record, discusses openly the battle he has gone through with depression and he credits a lot of his management of depression to getting on the bike. Further to this example a review of 42,264 participants showed that exercise improved anxiety level and depression levels, and was more effective in those with anxiety compared to those without.
Graeme Obree held the "Hour Record" with an astonishing 52.713km! No wonder they called him "The Flying Scotsman".
But how does it all work?
The body has a very clever way of releasing numerous amounts of natural chemicals through various mechanisms which help to provide some of these benefits following exercise. The ‘runner’s high’ is a widely known phenomenon that occurs when natural chemicals are released within the brain to give us that ‘feel good’ feeling. These chemicals are released at times of pain and stress to give feelings of euphoria and allow sedation and analgesia – much like the medically engineered drug morphine. Both endorphins and endocannabiniods (the happy chemicals) have been shown to be released during exercise which has been positively correlated with a decrease in depression scores. The distraction theory suggests that allowing people to take a mental ‘time out’ and have time to themselves may also be responsible for elevated mood. In addition, mastery or self efficacy has also been shown to contribute to mood elevation following exercise.
What's going on upstairs when we exercise.
Here at Mammoth we are all about getting people moving, living healthier physical and mental lifestyles. So set yourself the goal today that you will make part of your daily routine a small amount of physical activity. Something as easy as 20 minute daily walk. Who knows, before you know it you could be cycling your way across Europe?!
Whatever your goal or aim just make sure you set one. Completing a physical and mental goal then which you may have never thought possible, will give such a great sense of achievement that it may just spark something inside of you that may encourage that inner adventurer. As we've said before; Create Purpose in your life and Achieve the Impossible.
If there is anything else related to mental health you think would be helpful to others please comment below, knowledge is power!