Bike rides just for the fun of it can build great memories and help our general wellbeing. Taking the pace slow and steady, looking at the scenery as we go by can be a wonderful outlet for releasing stress levels.
When we build good memories and feel good about ourselves, we release feel good hormones such as dopamine, one of the happy hormones. It is associated with learning experiences, pleasurable activities and motor system functions.
This Hormone set is known to help promote positive feelings, serotonin is another important feel-good hormone (and neurotransmitter) released during activities that give us these upbeat feelings and it helps regulate your mood as well as your sleep, digestion, our learning ability, and memory.
Endorphin levels will often increase when you take part in activity that gives rewards and enjoyment such as eating or working out and cycling for pleasure. What more reason do we need to give ourselves a natural boost?
Increasing our exercise levels can also keep the musculoskeletal system healthy. Not only that but exercise also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Cycling is known as a lower impact form of exercise than say, running which makes it a good form of exercise for those with joint issues or those who are recovering from injury, obviously always consult your doctor or consultant first.
Learning to ride a bike, memories
Do you remember your first bicycle? Learning to ride a bike as a kid was a tricky business, wobbling along thinking you’ll never get off those stabilisers.
Then soon enough off you go peddling along feeling great, then that dreaded moment, oh no where’s the brakes again? Down you fall, scuffed knees and elbows only to get up again to try try again.
One day you realise all the scuffs and tears were worth it and you’ve learnt a skill for life. As an adult cycling can be a wonderful outlet for relaxation and for fitness but not only that, the lessons you once learned as a child can be passed down to the next generation.
I have so many fond memories of family cycle rides, firstly as a child with my mum and brother, who helped me learn how to ride a bike, but also so many good times as my own children grew up too.
Do you have fond memories of bicycle rides as a child or even while teaching your own kids to ride their bikes?
There’s much more equipment available these days, far from the days when I learnt to ride a bike, and cycle tracks are more widely available. Safety is paramount when riding bikes and I’ll get back to that point later.
Cycling for fun and leisure
My family and I have had lots of fun rides along the rivers and canals around our local area and so many fond memories built right from the time our eldest sons were small.
At least one of them would be carried on the back of bike in a child seat, fastened in and helmet on, often nodding off. I could never figure out how they can sleep like that.
The two younger, daughter and son had their share of bike rides too, by this time there were towing bikes that attached to an adult cycle. These work so well in that you can take longer rides and know they are attached to you while you do the lions share of the pedalling. They then do not tire quite so easily.
Sometimes we’ve taken the bikes to places further afield when the family were younger, some of the beautiful places we’d visit such as Clumber Park are perfect locations for families to enjoy a pleasurable ride. If you don’t own a bike or can’t transport the bikes to the park, they also hire them, all sizes and tow bikes.
Wellbeing and health
Studies show that those who cycle regularly enjoy the general health of somebody who is approximately 10 years younger than those who are less active.
The low impact exercise can be continued throughout life with less chance of causing joint issues, so it can be a lifelong habit and possibly life extending pastime. Once cycling has become a pleasurable habit, taking the cycle route to work, school or university is more likely, which in turn is great for the body and mind as a continued routine.
Taking the health benefits to a further level can be reached by taking a quicker pace or by mountain biking over rougher terrain which gives a fuller body exercise, toning the upper body whilst stabilizing and manoeuvring around or over obstacles.
When riding at a quicker pace, enough to make you exert yourself further, enough to make you breath faster etc, you can burn around 500 calories an hour, which helps to control weight and if done on a regular basis contributes to cardiovascular fitness and all-round health, body and mind.
Health practitioners say we should do some kind of physical activity that raises our heart rate for 30 minutes, five times a week, or several short sessions of vigorous intensity activity.
If beginning a cycling routine, start gently and build up as you feel able, don’t over do it on your first ride out, perhaps make it a fun family trip so that everyone benefits from the exercise and the stress lowering hormones. Regular exercise especially outdoor exercise can generate new neurons, (cells that transmit information to the nervous system) in the brain which can lead to an enhanced memory, much improved mood and better cognitive function, and learning capabilities.
When you exercise in any form that increases your heart rate, more oxygen is pumped to your brain which has been shown in studies to help manage anxiety and depression.
A few well-known facts about the benefits of cycling or any type of regular exercise are a reduced risk of; Depression by up to 30% Type 2 Diabetes by 40% Hip Fractures by 68% Breast cancer by 20% Colon cancer by up to 30% Cardiovascular disease by 35% .
So, whether for leisure purposes, for transport to work or in general, cycling trips can be greatly beneficial to your health and to your pocket, saving lots of money on car journeys or public transport while reducing carbon emissions too.
If you want to get these benefits at home, you can often pick up a good deal on an exercise bike to get that all important exercise from your own home. Time yourself, listen to music while riding your indoor bike or even watch the TV whilst burning the calories and getting a boost of those feel-good hormones at the same time.
I often use mine at home while listening to music on my headphones, I see the stats on the digital screen and then each time I challenge myself to increase my speed or times, or to do a more physical hill climb.
Personally, I’m recovering from a knee dislocation from a couple of years ago and a more recent knee operation, I find the combination of walks of varied lengths and a combination of exercise bike workouts and yoga helps me without a doubt.
Cycling safety tips and equipment
Staying safe while cycling is paramount, and common sense denotes that you would wear proper protective clothing and a correctly fitting cycle helmet and not a second hand one. Shop around for a good quality safety helmet, there is lots of different types on the market now so you can buy one that suits you and is a really good fit.
Your helmet could safe your life in an accident so do make sure you wear one for your own safety.
Reflective clothing is another important choice, reflective tabards are reasonably priced and can make a big difference to whether you can be seen in low light conditions or not, it is surprising how much more visible you will be to other road and cycle track users.
Cycle lights are another important purchase to make, again, shop around, there are lots of great deals if you look for them and it is a piece of kit that is going to keep you safe and visible so buy the best that you can.
Use cycle tracks wherever possible, these are shown to be a lot safer than cycling on busy roads and can more relaxing too. Always respect other road and cycle track users and give way where possible, and always give each other plenty of space especially as lots of cycle tracks are dual use alongside pedestrians.
We always pack enough water and depending on distance, a few snacks or a picnic. The most useful pieces of kit that always get packed in our backpack is a good first aid kit, plus a full puncture repair kit that includes a few basic tools in case of punctures, a spare inner tube for those times when multiple punctures become a problem and it makes a quicker fix until getting home to do the repair.
Don’t forget a bicycle pump, it’s no use making a repair if you can’t reinflate your tyre again. There are some good bicycle repair videos available online if you are a first-time cyclist.
Cycling can be a lifetime pleasure that will keep you healthier and fit for life. Whether for leisure, for sport or for transport, why not try this health promoting method of exercise to increase your mental wellbeing, as well as your cardiovascular health and overall body wellness. Stay safe and use common sense while out cycling but have fun with it and enjoy the multitude of benefits it can promote.