SMARTER, HAPPIER, AND MORE FOCUSED: CYCLING SAVES THE BRAIN & SPREADS SMILES

Anti-depressants, Ritalin, drugs for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? Obsolete. Looks like the only remedy one needs is comprised of two-wheels, a frame, and some physical exertion!

Me! Loving life atop two-wheels on the streets of a small Austrian town

Me! Loving life atop two-wheels on the streets of a small Austrian town

A wonderful article over at The Independent discusses what us Ladies (and Lady-lovers) already know: that riding a bike makes you happier, healthier, smarter, and wittier*.

The combination of physical exertion and almost meditative rhythmic motion included in life atop two-wheels have been shown to impart a multitude of benefits to the rider. From the article:

Several studies have shown that exercises including cycling make us smarter. Danish scientists who set out to measure the benefits of breakfast and lunch among children found diet helped but that the way pupils travelled to school was far more significant. Those who cycled or walked performed better in tests than those who had travelled by car or public transport, the scientists reported last month. Another study by the University of California in Los Angeles showed that old people who were most active had 5 per cent more grey matter than those who were least active, reducing their risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

A beautiful bike path through the countryside in Austria. Perfect for smiles and contemplation!

A beautiful bike path through the countryside in Austria. Perfect for smiles and contemplation!

In addition to physical health – mental wellness, cognitive functioning, and ability to focus are also greatly impacted by riding a bike on a regular basis.

[John Ratey, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School] has seen patients whose severe depression has all but disappeared after they started to cycle.

Rhythm may explain some of the effects. “Think about it evolutionarily for a minute,” he says. “When we had to perform physically, those who could find an altered state and not experience the pain or a drag on endurance would have been at an advantage. Cycling is also increasing a lot of the chemistry in your brain that make you feel peaceful and calm.

At the same time, the focus required to operate a bicycle, and for example, to negotiate a junction or jostle for space in a race, can be a powerful medicine. Dr Ratey cites a study his department is currently conducting. More than 20 pupils with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are expected to show improved symptoms after a course of cycling.

And an unexpected benefit? Parkinson’s patients have shown improvement following the addition of cycling to their treatment plans. You can see a video here showing a patient with a freezing gait who struggles to walk, but when placed upon a bicycle, is able to ride without tremor or difficulty. More on cycling and Parkinson’s:

Dr Alberts conducted an experiment, the results of which were reported last month. He scanned the brains of 26 Parkinson’s patients during and a month after an eight-week exercise programme using stationary bikes.

Half the patients were allowed to ride at their own pace, while the others were pushed incrementally harder, just as the scientist’s tandem companion had been. All patients improved and the “tandem” group showed significant increases in connectivity between areas of grey matter responsible for motor ability. Cycling, and cycling harder, was helping to heal their brains.

Ladies (and Lady-lovers): these are just the personal benefits to the rider. Additionally, communities benefit from increased human connection, decreased air pollution, decreased noise pollution, decreased road maintenance costs, decreased healthcare costs, and improved local economies.

The reasons for adopting life atop two-wheels are endless. What’s yours?

Keep riding, smiling, and loving life, Ladies!

XOXO

*Note: wittiness dependent upon the cognitive benefits of cycling, reading books and blogs like this, and the mindless enjoyment of occasional pop-culture atrocities.

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