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The Mental Health Benefits of Biking

Graduate student and cyclist Jack Feng

Every May, not only is National Bike Month observed, but so is Mental Health Awareness Month to bring attention to the importance of that state of well-being. Keeping active, for example, riding a bike, is one of the best—and scientifically-proven ways—to boost your mental health. Taking care of your mental well-being should never take a back seat – and one remedy is to hop in the bike saddle. Here’s a look at your brain on biking.

Pump up your mood

Riding a bike produces a neurochemical spike of serotonin, the happy hormone, and dopamine, the pleasure hormone. These not only improve mood but also relieve pain. Bike riders also get a hit of endorphins, another neurotransmitter known as "feel-good" chemicals, that trigger positive feelings.  

Stop sign for stress

Exercise like biking can lower the levels of your body's stress hormones, including the primary one, cortisol. Getting on a bike can also relieve tension in your body. Regular riding, by aiding in synchronizing your circadian rhythms—the 24-hour internal clock that regulates sleepiness and alertness in the body—can help reduce levels of stress hormones that may make proper regenerative deep sleep difficult as well. 

Speed towards improved self-esteem

The release of the neurotransmitter serotonin from rhythmic pedaling not only boosts mood – it can help boost self-esteem. Biking offers a sense of independence, freedom, and achievement, lending to healthy and empowering feelings. By also giving the rider a chance to feel strong, biking can build confidence, too. Getting outdoors is also good for the spirit. 

Put the brakes on anxiety and depression

Aerobic activity, such as cycling, not only releases hormones that stimulate relaxation and happiness, inducing calmness and potentially lowering anxiousness, but every pedal stroke can also help alleviate symptoms of depression.

Countless studies back up the positive correlation between exercise, like cycling, and mental health. Lastly, being a fun activity is also a mental health benefit!