The use of bicycles has come a long way since its early application as a form of transportation. In recent years, bicycles have developed a special place in the heart of many people as a form of therapeutic activity and have become increasingly popular in the medical field. Researchers have uncovered evidence of the potential of bicycles to reduce symptoms of psychological disorders, such as depression, schizophrenia, and dementia.
The physical and neurological benefits associated with riding a bike were initially observed in 1997, when researchers conducted a study of 851 patients using stationary bicycles. The results of the study concluded that those who reported regular physical activity, such as cycling, experienced a reduction in fatigue, irritability, and sleep disturbances.
The mental health benefits of physical activity are well established and were further established with the release of the result of a study conducted in 2001 by scientists of the University of Auckland in New Zealand that involved the study of 1,743 adults. The researchers revealed that those participants who cycled more than two hours a week were more likely to report feeling “very content” overall.
Subsequent studies have highlighted the potential of bicycles to reduce symptoms of mental disorders. For instance, in a study from the University of Oxford, researchers found that during an eight-week cycling intervention, 63 percent of the participants with schizophrenia experienced reduced symptoms and a 50 percent reduction in depression scoring was observed in those with clinical depression. These results echo those from another study at the Academic Medical Center in Utrecht where patients with mild-to-moderate depression reported improved mood states and reduced depression scores following 12 weeks of regular biking in the area.
Bicycles have long been used as a form of relaxation therapy and to combat stress. For those suffering from depression, biking has been identified as an effective way to reduce the intensity of negative thoughts and provide psychological distance from stressful activities. For example, taking a leisurely ride out in the open air can be a means of escape from the constant stresses that produce anxiety and depression. Similarly, those suffering from anxiety can exercise their way out of their anxious mood and, with regular biking, overcome their anxieties.
Other benefits of regular bicycling range from improving cognitive functioning to increasing alertness. During a biking experience, one increases their heart rate and pumps more oxygen to the brain, triggering the uptake of information and increasing the efficiency of nerve cells. This improved cognitive functioning has been observed in a study conducted by the University of Toronto which concluded that those participants who cycled 40 minutes three times a week for five weeks showed improved scores for planning, decision-making, and problem solving.
Bicycles have also been identified as a promising treatment for dementia. According to a study conducted by the University of Cambridge, regularly biking was found to slow down the deterioration of cognitive skills and reduce the decline of physical health. With regular bike riding, dementia patients can also increase their level of physical activities, reintroduce social interaction to their lives, feel more confident in their physical performance, and improve their mood.
In conclusion, bicycles have become known not only for their transportation capabilities but also for their therapeutic properties. Riding a bike can offer a variety of positive benefits to those living with mental disorders, such as reducing the severity of symptoms, increasing cognitive capabilities, and improving physical and social health. Therefore, cycling should be considered as a promising source of psychological treatment.