Who doesn't want to be a little happier, reduce their future risk of developing depression, and enhance their cognitive function? Fortunately, there is mounting evidence that exercise including biking can play a role in helping with each of these!
With depression being one of the most common mental disorders and antidepressant medications being very frequently prescribed much recent research has focused on other means of treatment and prevention. There have been many studies showing benefits of exercise including cycling. Many of these studies have shown at least an association between cycling and improvement in mood, depression, or prevention of future depression. We understand that there are many factors involved in this highly complex area, and suggest seeking professional help if necessary. However, as long as you are riding safely hopping on your bike and going for a spin appears to behold some significant mental health advantages :)
One recent fascinating and convincing study published in Translational Psychiatry in 2016 by Alderman, Olson, Brush & Shors looked at meditation and aerobic exercise in combination as a clinical intervention for individuals with major depressive disorder and also in typical healthy individuals. After an eight week intervention of two sessions of 30 minutes of focused attention mediation and 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise (treadmill or cycle ergometer) the individuals with major depressive disorder reported significantly less depressive symptoms and typical healthy individuals reported less depressive symptoms as well.
There was also a systematic review of prospective studies examining the relationship between physical activity and the prevention of depression. This was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine by Mammen, G. and Faulkner, G. (2013). This review included 25 of 30 studies which demonstrated in high quality that there was an association of lower risk of subsequent depression with baseline physical activity. This even included low levels of physical activity including walking!
These two studies highlight some of the existing evidence to support cycling as a way of improving your mental health. (More of enhanced cognitive function in a future post.) This is not to mention the fresh air, sunshine, and contentment of partaking in a clean form of exercise and/or transportation!
Alderman, B.L., Olson, R.L., Brush, C.J., & Shors, T.J. (2016). MAP training: combining meditation and aerobic exercise reduces depression and rumination while enhancing synchronized brain activity. Translational Psychiatry, 6, e726; doi:10.1038/tp.2015.225.
Mammen, G. & Faulkner, G. (2013). Physical activity and the prevention of depression: a systematic review of prospective studies. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, volume 45, issue 5, 649-57.