How can cycling help you beat ‘the most depressing day of the year’?

The biking benefits that will help you through Blue Monday

Not a fan of January? You’re not the only one. A lot of us feel a little glum at the turn of a new year and it’s perfectly understandable. The dark mornings and evenings, cold weather and the end of the festive period are enough to get anyone a little down. Luckily, the solution is probably stuck in your shed. Just by jumping on the bike, you can blast away the blues and give yourself a much-needed lift.

Cycling is without doubt one of the best forms of all-round exercise there is. Lower blood pressure, improved cardiovascular capacity and fat burning are just a few of the many well-known benefits to our body that can come with bike riding. What might not be as immediately obvious however, is the impact cycling can have on our mental health.

What is Blue Monday?

Blue Monday is apparently the ‘most depressing day of the year’ and occurs on the third Monday of every January. It is supposedly the day where we feel most down. Returning to work after the festive period, feeling sluggish after weeks of indulgence and still a week away from payday all contribute to many of us feeling blue.

When is Blue Monday in 2022?

Blue Monday falls every third Monday in January. This year it will be Monday 17th January.

How can cycling improve your mental health?

It’s been a tough time for much of the country over the last 18 months. Government statistics have shown that the number of adults over the age of 18 suffering from psychological distress rose by almost a third following the first national lockdown in March 2020. The NHS recommends at least two hours of exercise a week as a way to combat stress.

According to the Department for Transport, there was also 19% rise in the number of people cycling in 2020 as the UK entered its first lockdown. More and more of us looked to hop into the saddle rather than use public transport and keep ourselves active, but how much can cycling actually do for our mental health?

1) Cycling boosts your memory and reasoning

All aerobic exercise can be good for the brain as it helps to maintain blood flow to the organ providing it with a supply of nutrients and oxygen. People who exercise regularly often find that their judgement, learning and thinking remains sharp as they age. But it’s not just older people who benefit from this link between physical exercise and brain function – even youngsters claim that a bike ride can help their thought processes.

A 2013 study had a group of healthy young men pedal a stationary bike at a moderate pace for 30 minutes. The group completed a series of tests before and after the exercise. The study found that after their 30-minute pedal they scored higher on memory, planning and reasoning and were able to complete the tests quicker than before the exercise.

2) Cycling improves your brain power

There’s a good reason why studies show that our mental skills are improved after a bike ride - it’s all to do with the ‘white matter’ in our brains. White matter, found beneath the brain surface, acts as a conduit linking different regions of the brain together - like a cerebral subway system.

Evidence from a 2014 Dutch study over a six-month period showed that people who regularly cycled increased the integrity of their white matter. The increase of which helps your brain function more smoothly, something which is great for any problem-solving you might have to face at work.

Cycling and mental health benefits

Getting out on your bike has more benefits than just improving your fitness.

3) Cycling improves your well-being

Regular physical activity also helps to combat stress, depression and anxiety. Cycling to work though, is one of the best ways to improve your well-being every day. A study carried out across a number of European cities, found that using your bike to get around can help with lowering perceived stress and fighting the feeling of loneliness. The research, conducted by ISGlobal, compared different ways of getting around such as: walking, taking the car or public transport, and claimed that cycling was the number one mode of transport for improving your well-being.

The research is supported by a previous study of commuters by the University of East Anglia back in 2014. That report concluded that those who cycle and walk to work were put under less strain and were able to concentrate more than those who commute by car. The same study also found that commuters who had made the switch from four-wheels to two, reported that they felt happier as a result – and who doesn’t want to brighten up their day?

4) Cycling helps reduce anxiety

One study has shown that less than an hour of cycling helps the body produce the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA). This is a naturally occurring chemical that helps to regulate many things within the human body, including stress.

Cycling has also been linked with reducing anxiety. A study of almost 300 students found that riding a bike helped reduce signs of anxiety. If you’re struggling with nerves or feel uneasy, then it may be that a good bike ride can help.

cycleGuard

TAGS

  • Health
  • Commuter
  • Cycle

SHARE THIS