How Does Cycling Affect Our Stress Levels?

People start cycling for a number of reasons: to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle or just to improve their general fitness. However, although the physical benefits of cycling are widely documented, what is often forgotten is how much it can help our mental health too.

According to statistics from The International Stress Management Association, stress accounts for 37% of all work-related ill health cases, which is too high for our liking! Luckily, our saviour from stress could come in the form of two wheels and a saddle. We conducted a survey that found that 1 in 3 cyclists said cycling reduced their stress levels.

We investigate how cycling helps relieve the stresses that everyday life throws at us and why this might be.

How to de-stress

What’s the first thing you do after a particularly stressful day? Settle down on the sofa with a good book? Run a hot bubble bath? While these options are certainly going to help you relax, a massive 75% of people who responded to our Twitter poll said they’d rather go on a nice long bike ride to get rid of their built-up pressure.

Cycling on Britain’s roads gets a bad reputation thanks to other road users, so why does cycling have so many people turning to it as a way to manage stress?

Andy Sexton, Director of Bike Science Ltd, explained why cycling is such a good relaxant: “it gets you out in the fresh air, gives you time to decompress and relax. It can help you think through problems and the space cycling gives you helps you find the solutions” he said, adding that “every time you cycle it’s a mini-adventure for the soul!”

Stress-busting properties

There are many aspects to cycling that could contribute to why it helps us relax, but we wanted to find out which one, in particular, helped people the most. The release of endorphins came out as the most relaxing part of cycling for our respondents.

Endorphins are released during exercise such as cycling as your body’s natural painkiller. Technically, they’re released to prevent exercise from causing us pain, but a positive side effect of them is that they also play a role in boosting our mood and relaxing our mind.

Enjoying nature was also a popular answer in the poll. This is hardly surprising as exposure to nature has been shown to have a positive effect on mental health, independently from exercise, and it has been found that combining the two is a winning combo for mental well-being – cycling is the perfect example of how to combine the two.

Fast-paced pedalling vs. leisurely riding

We’ve certainly established that cycling can prove invaluable in managing stress levels, but cycling comes in many different forms – some prefer to ride along leisurely and take in the surroundings, while others prefer a more adrenaline-fueled adventure.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, leisurely riding came out as the kind of cycling that boosts people’s mood the most. This allows time to take in your surroundings and really reflect on what has been weighing on your mind.

However, this doesn’t mean you should write-off fast-paced pedalling. There’s nothing like tearing down a trail at 15mph to forget all your worries!

Do you find cycling helps with your stress levels? What part of cycling enables you to relax the most? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below!