Why cycling and walking are great for your mental health

Mental Health / Get Fit / Healthy Weight

We all know that keeping active has huge benefits for our physical health. But did you know that it’s also good for your mental health? Here’s why walking and cycling are great for your body and your brain.

Research by mental health charity Mind shows that one in four us will experience a mental health problem each year.

And with the current Coronavirus pandemic, we’re all adjusting to a new way of living and many of us are feeling worried or anxious.

Walking and cycling are the perfect way to fit exercise into your daily routine safely. They help us to stay fit and healthy both mentally and physically.

As the famous saying goes: “A healthy body, a healthy mind”.

So we’ve put together this list to prove why cycling and walking are good for your mental health.

Cycling reduces stress

Exercise like cycling can lower the levels of your body’s stress hormone, cortisol. Getting on your bike can relieve tension in your body too.

Research shows that those who regularly cycle have a significantly lower risk of feeling stressed.

And cycling can be much cheaper in the long-run than a gym membership, saving you some cash and helping to ease stress over your finances.

It helps with anxiety too

Cycling and walking both release our ‘feel-good’ hormones known as endorphins. These hormones help to relax your mind and make you feel happier.

This boosts your mood and reduces your feelings of anxiety.

Increase your self-esteem

Getting active can make you feel more positive and better about yourself, especially as you improve and meet your goals.

It helps with getting a better night’s sleep and puts you in a good mood – and all of these things help to improve your self-esteem.

Good for fighting depression

Feeling depressed can leave you with low energy levels. But getting out for a short walk or bike ride can boost your mood.

And the NHS says that regular exercise is especially useful for people with mild to moderate depression.

You’ll find there’s nothing better than a bike ride on a traffic-free pathway or a nice brisk walk through the city.

And if you love walking or cycling, doing exercise that you enjoy will keep you motivated to keep it up.

Helps you socialise

Cycling and walking can be great when we want some alone time. But they can also be enjoyed with friends or family.

Socialising reduces feelings of loneliness. It gives us a chance to talk about how we feel out loud which can help us process our thoughts.

Regular exercise with others helps with stress and anxiety, boosts your memory, and it can reduce your risk of getting type two diabetes.

Don’t forget to follow your local Covid-19 guidelines on social distancing.

Feel calm and mindful

Cycling or walking gives your brain something else to focus on. This can make you feel calmer and help you to manage intrusive or racing thoughts.

Walking is a brilliant way to practice some mindfulness too. Mindfulness is where you clear your mind of distraction and fully embrace where you are and what you’re doing at that moment.

Practising mindfulness can help manage depression, anxiety and stress. And top athletes even use it to maximise their performance.

Keep your mind strong

As we get older, our brain starts to get a bit slower. But the good news is that regular exercise like cycling or walking helps to slow down these changes.

Research shows that regular exercise may also protect against dementia, mood swings and memory loss.

Just 30 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and keep your mind sharp.

Being outdoors is better for you

Exercise of any kind is good for you. But studies show that exercising outdoors or in nature is even better for your mental health.

Getting some fresh air when out for a walk or bike ride leaves you feeling energised, positive and ready to take on whatever life throws at you.

And it helps to calm you if you’re feeling tense or angry.

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Mental Health Helplines & Web Chats

Action Mental Health
Association for Post-Natal Illness Helpline
Aware NI - Support Groups
Aware NI - Online Support Groups
Mind - Side by Side Online Community