Mental Health: This is how cycling can help your psyche

Mental Health: This is how cycling helps your psyche
Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash – Dan Russo

Cycling not only keeps you physically fit, it is also good for our mental health – in many different areas, as studies show. We show why cycling can help against fears, stress and anger.

Cycling has many benefits. You are out in the fresh air, ideally in nature. In the city you can often get to your destination faster than by car and you don’t have to look for a parking space. You save money, protect the environment and stay physically fit at the same time. But did you also know how good cycling can be for our psyche?

For example, cycling regularly can help you reduce stress, become more self-confident or have fewer fears. According to current science, cycling can be of great help to you in at least five mental problem areas. Even if you currently feel mentally healthy, cycling can help you stay that way, as the positive preventive effect has also been well researched.

1. Cycling can help reduce and prevent anxiety

We live in a time of multiple crises that scares many of us. The good news: You can actively do something about this fear. According to science, endurance training such as cycling reduces the reactivity of the sympathetic nervous system and, to put it simply, makes us less sensitive to stressors such as fears etc. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) plays a key role in these mechanisms. It regulates the release of stress hormones, which can lead to an increase in feelings of anxiety and panic. According to researchers, those who cycle regularly can reduce this sensitivity.

In addition, moderate endurance training leads to an increased release of happiness hormones such as dopamine. This activation of the reward system in our brain also helps us feel more balanced and satisfied.

2. Cycling can help you gain confidence

Can you become more confident by riding a bike? At least that’s what some studies suggest. For example, 27 people were recruited for a study from 2014. Eleven participants did not change their everyday life, the other 16 did 10 endurance training sessions of at least 30 minutes each over a period of three weeks. They could either run, cycle indoors or work out on the elliptical trainer.

The result: After three weeks, the more active test subjects consistently stated that they felt more self-confident than the control group in the recognized self-esteem test, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES). Due to the small number of test subjects, the scientific significance of the experiment is limited. However, there are other studies that link physical activity with increased self-confidence. So it stands to reason that such an effect also occurs with cyclists.

Cycling outside could have an additional positive effect on self-confidence. Because with a bike you can easily and quickly discover new areas outside, achieve goals you have set yourself and gain new impressions – all experiences of success that can strengthen our self-confidence.

3. Cycling can reduce stress

A study by the University of Zurich showed, among other things, that cycling can help relieve stress and increase our well-being. The almost 9,000 respondents said that they felt less stressed when they cycled for their everyday journeys. This is mainly because cycling helps us reduce the stress hormone cortisol.

According to the researchers, regular, cyclical pedaling movements while cycling also play a positive role in reducing stress. They increase the activity of our parasympathetic nervous system and thus have a calming effect on our mind. We stay more in the moment, in this case while cycling, worry less and brood less.

Of course, this stress reduction works better if you cycle in a relaxed environment – traveling in the big city at rush hour is less helpful, so choose a nice route into the countryside.

4. Riding a bike can help relieve depression

Both the lowering of our cortisol levels and the uniform pedaling motion when cycling can not only reduce stress, but may also help people with depression. This is pointed out by a study from the University of Tübingen. To do this, the researchers had older people with depression ride an ergometer for a good 30 minutes. Blood values, which play a central role in the development of depression, were measured before and after the bike ride.

While these values ​​of the depressed people were worse before the endurance exercise than those of healthy comparison people, after the 30-minute bike ride they had normalized for almost all study participants.

5. Cycling can combat anger

Anger is a destructive emotion – internally and externally – and is not good for our psyche. When we feel them, we need an outlet to let them out and thus reduce the pressure we feel. Cycling can help us with this. Because through exercise we reduce stress hormones and give our body the chance to do something active.

Several studies suggest that endurance exercise such as cycling can reduce feelings of anger. Researchers who conducted a study with children found that those who did 40 minutes of endurance exercise per day felt and acted out less anger than control groups who did little or no exercise.

Cycling away from anger is not only a good idea for our psyche, it can also protect our hearts. As scientists at Columbia University in New York City found out in a recently published study, even short tantrums can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. So yet another reason to get on your bike regularly.

Read more on Techzle\.com:

  • When an e-bike is worthwhile – and when not
  • Germany’s most bicycle-friendly community: What we can learn from it
  • Staying mentally fit as you get older: “There are three things you should keep in mind from the age of 30”

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