Pedaling Towards Happiness: 7 Mental Health Benefits of Riding Bikes

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2. Physical Activity Improves Self-Esteem

“What we think about ourselves is probably the central concept in our conscious lives,” theorized William McGuire and his colleagues in 1976. Whether you buy fully into that notion or not, it would be difficult (nay, impossible) to argue that our perception of our selves isn’t important to our happiness and overall satisfaction. With the incursion of social media into every facet of our lives, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have a positive view of our own lives while constantly being bombarded by the achievements of others.

So if you need a cure for the Instagram blues, bicycling has your back. A meta-analysis of studies on physical activity and self-esteem determined that the former has a positive impact on the latter, and the impact was not significantly altered by the intensity or duration of physical activity. So just a little cruise here or a few days biking to work there can have an overall positive impact on your perception of yourself. And why shouldn’t it, you’re wonderful!

3. Physical Activity is an Effective Anti-Depressant

A long-term study of adults in Alameda County, California determined that high levels of physical activity led to a significantly decreased risk of developing clinical depression later in life, even when adjusted for other factors such as socioeconomic status, life events, social supports, and other health habits. Similarly, a meta-analysis of other studies on the subject found that, for youth and adults already suffering from depression, physical activity can be as effective as psychotherapeutic techniques to treat the disorder. Unlike most psychotherapies, there were no observed negative effects of physical activity in treating depression.

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