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Get Moving: The mental benefits of bicycling

Get Moving: The mental benefits of bicycling

October 16th, 2018 by Amy Schroeder, Jefferson City Parks community relations manager in Health

Charles Skornia waves from the front seat of the tandem bicycle he rode with his wife, Charlotte Skornia, on Monday, April 30, 2018, during Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails Day. Riders, including a few state lawmakers, biked from the Governor's Garden across the pedestrian/bicycle path and onto the Katy Trail. The event aimed to promote the expansion of bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly roadways and nature trails.

Photo by News Tribune /News Tribune.

It's evident cycling promotes physical health.

Benefits include improved heart health, stronger bones, disease prevention and increased muscle and joint function. Its low impact allows a wide range of ages and abilities to enjoy this aerobic exercise.

But beyond the physical impact, have you considered the effects cycling has on mental wellness? How does your brain benefit from balancing your body on two wheels while pedaling?

Improved cognitive and emotional wellness as a result of cycling is just as indicative as improved physical health benefits. "Cognitive" refers to the brain's biological tasks. Studies have shown cycling may increase memory, improve sleep patterns and slow down brain aging. Research has also found cycling helps some patients stop symptoms of Parkinson's. Other researchers are looking into cycling as an aid in treating ADHD.

In addition to cognition, increased emotional wellness is a major benefit and may be more easily identifiable. Simply put, cycling makes people happier. Medical journals identify hormones like serotonin as the culprits to producing this "rider's high." After a certain distance, they experience a sense of euphoria and boost of energy. Cycling ranks as one of the best activities to improve mood and decrease depression. Riding with a group further enhances mood by adding a layer of socialization to the mix.

I have nothing close to a medical degree that would qualify me to explain the complex neurological processes that occur during a bike ride. I will leave the how's and why's to the experts.

I can, however, speak from experience as someone who has rediscovered cycling. During a solo ride, the 20 tabs I have open in my brain magically close down. I like to think it's because my other senses are activated, allowing my mind to settle. My eyes are focused on the nature surrounding me. My ears listen to the gears shift and the tires on the path. I can feel the breeze that gets stronger the faster I pedal.

Want to improve your mental wellness but don't have a bike? You can download the Spin-Ride Your Way app and grab an orange bike. It's quite affordable at $1 for 30 minutes. You can also check out Red Wheel Bike Shop's bike and helmet rental options.

Amy Schroeder became the City of Jefferson parks community relations manager in April 2017, responsible for communication, public relations, marketing and initiatives to promote department programs, assets and branding. She joined the parks and recreation department in January 2008, serving as a customer service representative, administrative technician, park planner I and certified park and recreation professional before stepping into her current position.