When it comes to cycling, there is a huge focus on how it benefits your physical fitness, but what about your mind? Being one of most important organs in your body, it’s about time we all gave our brains a little bit of exercise-shaped TLC. Here are some of reasons cycling is the ultimate whey protein for your mind and mental health.
Surprisingly, cycling can make your hippocampus – a region of the brain that controls memory expand by generating new cells. According to a study from Illinois University, their participants perform 15% better on mental tests after improving their cardio-respiratory fitness by just 5% through biking. This positive effect can help prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia – “It boosts blood ﬂow and oxygen to the brain, which ﬁres and regenerates receptors, explaining how exercise helps ward off Alzheimer’s”, says Professor Arthur Kramer.
Everyone wants to be happy, and it turns out cycling can do just that by increasing the levels of serotonin, dopamine and phenylethylamine (the happy chemicals) in the brain. According to Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation – “Any mild to moderate exercise releases natural, feel-good endorphins that help counter stress and make you happy Just three 30-minute sessions a week can be enough to give people the lift they need”.
Helps to Fight Depression & Anxiety
With depression and anxiety affecting one in five UK adults, some prefer treatment that doesn’t involve prescription drugs and opening up to a therapist; which is where cycling comes in. In a study conducted by the University of Southern Mississippi, participants who suffered from anxiety and exercised at 60 – 90% of their maximum heartrate for three twenty minute sessions per week saw a significant improvement in fear levels after just two workouts. Not only can cycling treat depression and anxiety, it can also thwart it from affecting you.
Without sleep, our bodies find it impossible to function; which leaves our brain struggling too, for depriving your brain of sleep can affect your central nervous system – the information highway of your body; resulting in impaired cognitive function. However, for some falling asleep requires more than counting sheep and mediating. Thankfully, biking can help improve your sleeping pattern and even benefit insomnia. Stanford University School of Medicine proved this by getting insomnia sufferers to cycle for twenty to thirty minutes every other day; which resulted in the time required for insomniacs to fall asleep being reduced by twenty-thirty minutes. “Exercising outside exposes you to daylight”, explains Professor Jim Horne from Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Centre. “This helps get your circadian rhythm back in sync, and also rids your body of cortisol, the stress hormone that can prevent deep, regenerative sleep”.
As a sport that requires balance, quick reactions and decision-making-skills, cycling could improve your concentration levels. A study conducted by Vanderbilt University tested this theory by asking participants to cycle for a short period of time; which resulted them being 40% more likely to solve a puzzle than those who hadn’t exercised. With regards to children, psychiatrist David Contant-Norville, MD believes “Activities such as martial arts, gymnastics and cycling best control Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children”.