Bicycling.com says biking makes your brain happier and healthier. Not only does the increased blood flow from exercise increase muscle mass, it also builds brain power. It sharpens thinking and reduces stress. To listen to them tell it, riding a bicycle for 30 minutes a day helps us feel refreshed and relaxed. Apparently, it is good for whatever ails you, including the heartbreak of psoriasis.
According to Bicycling, biking can grow your brain the same way it can grow your muscles. When we ride a bicycle, the blood flow to our muscles increases. Our bodies build more capillaries, which supply more blood and oxygen to those muscles. The same process actually occurs in our brains. Cycling allows our cardiovascular system to grow further into our brain, bringing it more oxygen and nutrients that can improve its performance.
When we ride our bikes, our brains also increase their production of proteins used for creating new brain cells. By biking regularly, we can double new cell production in our brains. It also increases neuro-transmitter activity, allowing the regions of our brain to communicate more effectively. That improves our cognitive abilities.
The benefits of cycling are especially important for aging brains. These processes counteract the natural decline of brain function and development as we age. Scientists have compared the brains of adults in their 60’s and 70’s and found that the brains of those who regularly participated in physical activities like cycling actually appeared younger than those who do not. This suggests that cycling helps keep our minds sharp in our later years.
These findings are important as the world considers adding bicycle infrastructure to urban areas to reduce traffic congestion and pollution from internal combustion engines. They are one more argument that can be used to promote dedicated bike paths for cyclists to get into and out of cities, as well as get from place to place within the cities themselves.
How much bicycling is right for you? If you have been astride a bicycle since the Carter Administration, 15 minutes may be enough. Some exercise is better than none. Scientists suggest that 30 to 60 minutes of steady riding at a moderate pace is best. The goal is to maintaining a heart rate that is roughly 75% of your maximum.
For those of us not fortunate enough to live in Colorado where recreational marijuana use is permitted, riding a bike can offer similar benefits for free. It increases serotonin levels and dopamine production in our brains. It can also spur the production of endorphins and cannabinoids. Far out!
So to fight depression, ward off the effects of aging, and feel happier, follow the advice given by Queen: “Get on your bikes and ride!”
Photo credit: LifeHack.com