The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t just taking a toll on physical health or economic growth but has also been putting increasing pressure on American’s mental health. Americans reporting signs and symptoms of anxiety are currently well above historic norms. And adults aren’t the only ones feeling this way. Many children are feeling more anxiety too. Increased anxiety is causing adults and children alike to feel more “on edge,” and can interrupt sleep and even cause heart palpitations. With emotional discomfort on the rise, many are seeking ways to help find relief and mitigate ongoing symptoms. And that’s where bikes come in.
It is a widely accepted fact that general physical activity reduces stress and anxiety and increases overall feelings of good health. Riding a bike, however, has particular benefits that increase its effectiveness as a relief for rising anxiety levels. The following are just a few of the plethora of reasons riding a bike makes life better.
Meditation: Often offered as a practice to relieve and manage anxiety, mediation teaches participants to focus the brain as a way to detour thoughts and emotions from spiraling out of control. Meditation practices include deep breathing, counting, or repeating a phrase or mantra. Riding a bike can offer the same relief! Pedaling and striding is repetitive by nature, and focusing on the rhythm of each pedal stroke or stride can help your brain release outside stressors. Riding a bike requires physical exertion which causes riders to take deeper breaths and, in turn, helps regulate the nervous system. It turns out that daily worries and stress can be blocked out one pedal stroke (or stride!) at a time, leaving riders feeling renewed after each outing.
Confidence: The anxiety experienced by many Americans during this time is often triggered by the feeling of limited or complete lack of control. On the other hand, when riding a bike, you aren’t just in control, but you also experience success as skill levels improve. Whether it is going faster for longer or riding over obstacles on trails, many riders feel stronger and more confident with every ride. The confidence gained is particularly beneficial for children both on and off the bike. Experiencing success, control, and gaining confidence is an effective mood booster!
Enjoyment: And last, but certainly not least, biking is fun. That matters! Since daily stress doesn’t just magically stop, neither should movement and physical activities – especially for kids. Going to the gym or other types of workouts tend to be less enjoyable for many people, making it harder to commit to a regular routine. But, since riding a bike is fun, it is much easier to do it consistently, which contributes to a significant reduction in anxiety.
Now, more than ever, taking care of our mental-emotional health is of utmost importance. With all the other responsibilities and worries, this is often the least of our concerns. While dealing with increased stress and anxiety can be complex and take a multi-faceted approach, experiencing some relief can be as simple as going for a bike ride. Riding a bike is more than just a childhood pastime; it can quite literally change your life!