There is a particular joy that accompanies riding a bike, as if every worry in the world has slipped from the handlebars and, ejected in the slipstream, lies in a heap on a verge beside the road.
It has long been known that exercise can help improve mental health and cycling is no different, reducing a person’s risk of dementia, improving their sleep quality and promoting a greater sense of well-being.
Cycling out in nature and in green spaces can provide added benefits; a 2011 study found that exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalisation, increased energy and positive engagement alongside decreased tension, confusion anger and depression, though it acknowledged that further research was needed to better understand this link.
“Whenever I have a bad day or a bad period, I go for a bike ride and suddenly everything is great,” Adna Dumitrescu, co-founder of the Edinburgh-based cycling club Queens of Pain, says.
“I use it as a quite meditative aspect because when I ride I really clear my head and I’m lucky to live in Scotland where the scenery is so beautiful and I just look outside and feel part of it and don’t have to think about whatever dumb stuff is happening in my life.”
While mental health concerns affect everyone, women are generally at greater risk, the Mental Health Foundation says, partly due to social and economic factors such as being more likely to live in poverty and experience abuse.
Cycling can also be a sociable activity, creating meaningful personal connections through its community clubs, further boosting mental health.
“We’ve enabled through our social rides to build a space where friendship can be built, connection can be sustained and true sisterhood can flourish and it’s been so beautiful to watch that,” Samra Said, Chair of Cycle Sisters – a London-based organisation inspiring and enabling Muslim women to cycle – says.
Particularly through the winter months, when lots of people’s mental health declines, cycling in a group can provide vital endorphins and social connection, Said adds, referencing her organisation’s annual winter challenge “Smiles & Miles” to encourage members to continue cycling in winter.
In Cycling UK’s off-road report, 15% of female survey respondents said the social side was their main motivation to go mountain biking, compared to 12% of men. In the same survey, 91% of respondents added that cycling was very or fairly important for…
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