Can riding a bike rapidly improve your mental and physical health? Yes!
Here are 8 health benefits of bike riding:
New research indicates that even a few minutes of exercise (such as biking) is good for you and your health. The aim is to get at least 2.5 hours of moderate activity per week, but you can achieve that in small blocks down to 5-10 minutes and still gain the benefits (Source). So, a quick ride around the block to get out of the house to stretch your legs and your senses can do you a world of good on multiple levels.
When you ride a bike and your heart pumps more blood, you will get more oxygen into your system, and a brain receiving plenty of oxygen is a happy brain! Clinical research has found that well-oxygenated brains are better able to handle and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression (Source). Biking also reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, helping you to feel more relaxed. Using muscles and moving your body also releases dopamine, which contributes to feelings of happiness - sometimes known as runner’s high :)
Exercise, like riding a bike, reduces your levels of stress hormones. Feeling stressed and the presence of stress hormones increase your chances of getting ill. Lowering your stress hormones, for example by biking, will help protect you against illness (Source).
A fascinating study found that older people (aged between 55-79) who cycle regularly had better immunity than their age-counterparts who stayed inactive. Regularly riding a bike increased their white blood cell counts, which are the cells that form our immune system and fight infectious disease (Source). More here
Your heart is a muscle, the more you use it the stronger and bigger it gets. A stronger heart can improve your blood pressure and lower your heart rate as your heart becomes able to pump more blood per heartbeat. This will increase your energy levels in all areas of your life, not just while riding (Source).
Riding a bike is a great way to leave worries at home, be outside and get a new perspective on things. Riding a bike is probably one of the best things you can do if you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. This is backed up by a massive study of more than 1 million people in the US which found that cycling is one of the best stress busters out there (Source).
Longer exercise sessions have long-term benefits for handling emotions. Most of our emotions are handled in the area of our brains called the hippocampus. Higher intensity biking sessions (such as riding up a hill or going fast) generate new neurons in the hippocampus, which can then help us to better control emotions. So, riding and exercising regularly can actually make us happier :-) (Source)
Cycling is not only good for our individual health, but for the health of those around us as well. Reducing air pollution by leaving the car at home has tremendous benefits for our communities and societies. Our friends at Sustrans calculated that if the UK Government reached their cycling and walking targets, then 13,000 lives could be saved by 2030 (Source).
You can gain all these health benefits of biking too - simply enjoy riding your bike!