Whatever your reason for cycling, it is as good for your mental health as it is for your body. Riding a bike is accessible and achievable for all skill levels with pedal-assist electric bikes, which reduce the effort required to pedal long distances. Plus, a mountain of scientific evidence supports cycling’s stress-busting properties to improve your well-being, giving you plenty of reasons to get on your e-bike and start riding.
Cycling and Stress Reduction
When we engage in physical activity, our bodies release endorphins, called feel-good hormones. These endorphins interact with receptors in our brain, triggering positive feelings and reducing pain perception.
The release of endorphins during exercise creates a natural mood elevation or a runner’s high, helping combat stress and improving our overall emotional well-being. And because the runner’s high typically kicks in after about two hours of exercise, you are more likely to experience it in the saddle than on foot.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive effects of regular cycling on stress levels, anxiety and symptoms of depression. For example, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that individuals who engaged in just 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise, including cycling, experienced reduced stress and improved overall mood.
A 2017 study published in the British Medical Journal demonstrated that cycling to work was associated with lower perceived stress levels and increased well-being compared to other forms of commuting.
Stress-Reducing Benefits of Cycling
Whether you use an electric city bike or a standard bike, cycling offers several physical and mental benefits, making it a popular choice for fitness enthusiasts. These can include mood enhancement, sleep improvement and social connections that boost your mental and physical well-being.
1. Mood Enhancement
Cycling can boost your mood and provide a natural high. When you cycle, your body releases endorphins, chemicals in the brain that promote happiness and well-being. These endorphins create a positive mood elevation and can help combat stress, reduce feelings of sadness and enhance overall emotional well-being.
2. Increases Serotonin and Lowers Cortisol
Cycling may increase serotonin levels in the brain, promoting well-being and happiness. When you engage in physical activities like cycling, the brain releases more serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood and emotions. Higher serotonin levels reduce stress and anxiety, as serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer.
Regular cycling also helps regulate cortisol production. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for your body’s stress response. While intense exercise temporarily elevates cortisol blood serum levels to maximize athletic performance, low to moderate exercise like recreational cycling can modulate cortisol production, helping you to feel more relaxed and stress-free.
3. Anxiety and Depression Management
Aerobic exercise like cycling has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. A 2018 study found a positive correlation between aerobic exercise, such as cycling and improved symptoms of depression.
These results may be due to increased production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine following aerobic exercise. These neurotransmitters are crucial in regulating mood and emotions and can contribute to a sense of well-being and can alleviate symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.
4. Increased Self-Esteem
Engaging in regular cycling and achieving personal goals, such as completing longer distances or conquering challenging routes, can boost self-esteem and confidence. Achieving these milestones provides a sense of accomplishment and empowers you to overcome obstacles in cycling and other areas of life.
Improved self-esteem and confidence can help reduce stress and enhance your overall well-being. A 2022 study found that high self-esteem, especially within an organization, was associated with reduced depressive symptoms. Joining a cycling group or competition can help you achieve your e-biking goals and improve your self-esteem for better health.
5. Social Interaction
Cycling can be a social activity, whether joining group rides, participating in cycling events, or simply cycling with friends or family. Socializing and connecting with others who share a common interest can provide emotional support, reduce feelings of isolation and improve overall well-being.
A 2022 study found that a sense of belonging is essential to reducing feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. Building a sense of community and belonging through cycling can positively impact your mental health and stress levels.
6. Mindfulness and Relaxation
Cycling can be a meditative and mindful activity. As you cycle, you can focus on your breath, the rhythm of your pedaling and the sensation of movement. Using cycling as a mindfulness practice helps shift your attention away from stressors and worries, promoting a state of relaxation and mental clarity. This allows you to be present in the moment, which can be beneficial for reducing stress.
Mindfulness activities such as walking, cycling and yoga can help you recognize and process emotions more easily and use more adaptive strategies for dealing with stress. This improves your mental health by lowering stress hormones and giving you greater emotional clarity.
7. Nature Exposure
Because cycling is usually an outdoor activity, you can benefit from increased exposure to natural sunlight, fresh air and green spaces. Spending time outdoors has been found to lower your body’s stress response by regulating your hormonal feedback cycles.
A 2019 study found that spending time outside for just 10 minutes a day at least three times a week decreased salivary cortisol levels by 21.3% per hour and alpha-amylase levels by 28.1% per hour. The type of activity participants engaged in did not affect the body’s response to green spaces. This potentially means that cycling outdoors can help regulate your stress hormones to promote relaxation.
Another study found that low levels of daytime sunlight exposure were linked to increased depressive and anxious mood symptoms. Cycling exposes you to fresh air and sunlight, which can also improve your mood. This increased exposure to sunlight can also help regulate your circadian rhythm and help you sleep better. Getting at least eight hours of high-quality sleep can help reduce stress levels, with 45% of adults reporting symptoms of stress due to inadequate sleep.
Ride Towards a Stress-Free Life
Cycling offers numerous mental health benefits that contribute to overall well-being. And with a cheap electric bike from Upway, getting healthier is easier than ever. So, whether you commute to work or love exploring on two wheels, discover the joy of cycling and lower your stress levels.