5 Ways Cycling Boosts Your Mental Wellbeing

January 17, 2022
AUTHOR:
Emily Owen

With the magic of the festive period now behind us, the pinch of purse strings being felt by all, and weather so drab and unending it makes it hard to imagine that such a thing as summer exists, it’s fair to say much of the country is feeling the January blues. Oh, and not just January. January during a pandemic. When the threat of another lockdown looms over us all.

Today is ‘Blue Monday’, a day so depressing that it has its very own name. The most depressing day of the year in fact, Blue Monday falls on the third Monday of each January, so-called by its dark evenings and lack of proximity to payday.

It comes as no surprise then that as a bunch of cycling nuts, at fettle we’re all too keen to spout the merits of getting your bike back on the road. But, when it comes to the link between cycling and mental health, we have a good point (even if we may say so ourselves). Cycling, or exercise in general is scientifically proven to bat away those blues. So with the country ploughing through the most depressing day of the year, let’s take a look at 5 ways cycling can boost your mental wellbeing.

1. Improves concentration

In a time of constant stimulation from apps, screens and notifications, it can often be hard to focus on the  task at hand. On average, we check our phones every 12 minutes, pulling our concentration away from work, chores, or the show we might be watching.

A study from London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that constant interruptions have a profound effect on the mind, making our IQs fall by as much as 10 points, or having the same effect as a bad night's sleep.

Unlike the gym, offering the constant lure of that phone in your pocket, cycling forces you to focus your energies on one activity, which can retrain the brain. There’s no room for instagram scrolling when riding a two-wheeled steed. At the same time, the exercise releases norepinephrine, a hormone which helps improve concentration.

2. Better sleep

Few things feel as good as a long bike ride and a bath, before climbing into bed for a deep velvety sleep. As your core body temperature falls post-ride, it helps signal to the body that it’s time to sleep. With the added fresh air of cycling outside, riding helps reduce the amount of time it takes to drift off, as well as the amount of time spent lying awake at night.

Sleep like a baby.

3. Fresh air

Speaking of fresh air... oxygen is crucial to maintaining healthy brain function. In fact, the brain uses 3 times as much oxygen as other muscles in the body, with energy in the brain created almost solely from a kind of reaction that requires it. Getting out in the open is the best way to maintain a healthy brain.

4. Reduces stress

By solely focusing on your pedal strokes or the hill ahead, the troubles of the day begin to melt. Akin with meditation, cycling forces you to get into a rhythm and focus on the task at hand. At the same time, the release of endorphins helps to relax your mind and reduce anxiety.

5. Higher self esteem

Lastly, the sense of accomplishment from improving your cycling stamina can help to boost your self-esteem. Gradually building your fitness levels makes you realise how much you can achieve little by little across the board.

This, along with a more toned physique does wonders for your self image. As a form of cardio, cycling is a great way to burn body fat all over, whilst particularly toning up your legs and core.


During a time of fresh starts and new resolutions, January has an air of possibility about it. But it can also be a tough time of year, with the dark evenings making many feel particularly isolated and alone. In an age when we’ve become much more aware of looking after our mental health, here are a few ideas for how exercise can help bat away some of the blues.

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