The images of a person cycling through a park with their basket full of groceries, or in a suit, rushing off to work, have become sights of fiction. We’re used to seeing such types of people in movies and on images featured in health articles, since motor vehicles have become the norm in today’s society. Bicycles are perceived as a less practical option. But in reality, if you started to use your bike either as commute to work or to simply go to the market, you would lead a much happier life.
We all know that cycling is a form of exercise, masked as a means of transport. Using your bike several times a day for short errands, or once a day for a longer ride can greatly reduce stress levels. This is achieved by treating stress physically, not just mentally. But you may be wondering, how exactly does your mind gain from an exercise that is far less exhausting than, say, aerobics? Here some of the health benefits of cycling:
Lessens the commuting stress
First of all, for those who live some ways away from their workplace, commuting is a significant factor in their day, regardless of how long or short the ride is. Whether you take the bus, the car, subway, or train, there will be traffic jams, crowded spaces, rush hours and overall, collective stress that turns ordinary passengers into impatient time bombs. This is not to say the benefit of riding your bike to work is isolating yourself from other people. It’s that cycling gives you more control over the route, and time taken to get somewhere. The commuting experience is determined wholly by you, which significantly reduces commuting stress.
The quality of our sleep also affects our capability of dealing with stress. The lesser the quality, the worse we are at facing everyday problems. After a hard day’s work one sleeps like a baby, and there is no better feeling than falling asleep not even five minutes after dropping onto the bed. In a day and age when many have a problem with insomnia, due to fatigue from mental exertion, exhausting yourself physically could be the key. Riding a bike forces you to employ both the body and the mind, and since they work in unison, they spend all the energy producing endorphin, the happiness hormone, rendering you incapable to worry about things from the post-workout elation.
The meditative rhythm
Cycling can be just as meditative as yoga, as they share the same basis: breathing and repetition. It employs your body in such a way that your mind begins to follow a pattern, practicing discipline, like with meditation. Pedaling in a certain rhythm will cause you to breathe more deeply, which, in turn, gets the blood pumping faster. And what sets apart cycling from other rhythm based exercises is that wherever you cycle, your brain is actively engaged in planning out the route, and not trapped in dull repetition.
Sharing the experience
Humans are social creatures. Regardless of what we say, at our core, we crave companionship, validation and contact with others. Loneliness leads to an increased chance of stress due to the inability to share our experiences, good or bad, with others. Unlike most other exercises that are based on pure stress-burn, like kick-boxing, aerobics or cardio exercises, cycling can turn into a group event where the presence of friends and not the exercise alone, acts as the de-stressor. Studies show that sharing experiences with our colleagues and friends monumentally reduce stress, so cycling to the nearest park or finding a route in the suburbs makes for a fun fieldtrip that is bound to clear your mind.
Stress is the big bad word we all fear. The disease of the 21st century is here to stay, and the mistake many of us make is ignoring the problem until it needs to be cured with medication, or when it’s too late to be easily solved. Cycling is such a simple, yet fulfilling activity available to everyone, regardless of age. It is one of the activities that employ your mind and body that give you complete control over where you go, how fast and far, and a sense of freedom no indoor activity ever could. And that alone makes it the perfect treatment when the first signs of stress appear.
Chloe Smith is a cycling enthusiast, a business consultant at Reef Electric Bikes and a part-time writer always willing to share tidbits of advice. She believes that passion, courage and, above all, knowledge breed success.
Benefits of Bike Commuting – An infographic by the team at The-House