Photo by Coen van den Broek on Unsplash
Author credit Helen Bradford
As people today live quite a busy and hectic life, stress is a normal occurrence. However, stress is detrimental both for our body and mind and thus, we need to learn to deal with it. Besides the fact that cycling is a great way to alleviate stress, it is also a physical activity that is quite affordable and accessible. Cycling benefits our state of mind, it relaxes us and it benefits our body too. If you’re interested to learn how riding your bike helps you beat stress, keep reading!
1. The effects of stress on our body and mind
We are all under a lot of pressure and stress on a daily basis. If we’re under stress, we are in danger of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, poor habits and a lowered immunity, which can be dangerous. That’s why it’s essential to learn to deal with it. Exercising, in general, is beneficial both for our mental and physical health and it combats stress and depression. There are two types of stress: sedentary stress and stress we put our body under when exercising. The difference between the two types of stress is that when we exercise and put our body under stress, we actually condition our body to deal with stress. It is a kind of ‘positive stress’. We also condition our bodies to create ‘feel happy’ hormones when we exercise. Some studies have shown that people who are fit are more able to deal with the long-term effects of stress.
2. How does cycling help alleviate stress?
Exercise in general boosts blood flow and oxygen to our brain, which in turn fires and regenerates receptors, known to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. What does stress do to our bodies? It makes our heart beat faster, leading to shallow and fast breathing, builds up C02 and limits the level of oxygen in our brain, which causes even more stress. How exactly does cycling help here? Cycling is a perfect activity for beating stress as it forces us to regulate our breathing, by taking deep breaths and expelling any lingering C02. This is essential for alleviating stress as these are proven clinical techniques. Also, expanding your lungs lifts your diaphragm, which takes the pressure off the nerve center and relieves the stress on your central nervous system. Exercise and cycling are also great ways to regulate our sleep habits, which become quite irregular when we’re under stress. Moreover, exercising in general, as well as cycling outside exposes us to daylight, which helps us get your circadian rhythm back in sync, according to some researchers.
3. Physical benefits of cycling
There are numerous physical benefits that stem from cycling. And in turn, a sound body leads to a sound mind. So, you need to learn how to use your bike to beat stress.
- It benefits our brain
Cycling makes our blood pumping, which enables capillary beds to be created in our muscles and brain. Why is this crucial? In order to transfer more oxygen between the blood vessels and our cells, we need quality capillary beds. The greater the surface, the higher the rate of diffusion. If there’s more oxygen in our brain, more nutrients can be created and absorbed into our brain. This allows us to concentrate more.
- Brain build-up
When we pedal on a daily basis, our nerves tend to work more. This enables the centers of our brain to create new brain cells more efficiently. As our nerves work harder, they produce certain proteins that help in building new cells. This means that the more we cycle, the more brain cells are created, thus helping us think and focus.
- Better concentration
Our organs start to deteriorate slowly as we age. This is the point where these new brain cells will come in handy. By developing these new cells, we allow our brain to work faster and more efficiently. With regular cycling, you will eventually notice a change in the quality of your work. Casual cycling is an aerobic activity, providing a major workout for our heart, lungs and brain.
- Connecting with nature
Cycling to work is free when compared to other kinds of transport. It also means you can cycle at your own pace, enjoying fresh air and the nature around you. Cycling slowly, breathing fresh morning air, enjoying the sunlight and the song of birds, while grasping the serenity of nature is a highly effective way to reduce stress. So, if you still don’t own a bike, it’s high time you searched for bikes online and started your daily anti-stress routine.
4. Mental benefits of cycling
Besides the obvious physical benefits of cycling, there are also mental health benefits of cycling that come with cycling. Cycling generally reduces stress we deal with every day. Cardiovascular exercise such as cycling benefits both our body and mind. The feelings of enjoyment when we ride our bike also prevent us from falling into depression and developing mental illnesses. Regular biking helps us sleep better, as it decreases the levels of cortisol in our bodies that might block sound sleep we need. Cycling also improves our memory as it is responsible for building new brain cells in the hippocampus (a part of the brain dealing with the memory). Riding a bike to work makes us feel good about ourselves as we are aware of the fact that we’re helping save the environment by reducing our carbon footprint. Bikers claim that endorphins that come from riding a bike make them feel happy. Moreover, another mental benefit of cycling is that it sharpens our problem-solving skills and creativity. Some recent studies have shown that people who cycle to work are more productive.
Cycling is a great, affordable and enjoyable activity that everybody can do. With its numerous physical and mental health benefits, it’s sure to help us in alleviating stress on a daily basis. And if we cycle to work, we help save the environment and at the same time we kill two birds with one stone: we do our daily physical activity while getting to work!