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New Study Supports Bike Riding For Happiness

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Any form of physical activity will be hailed by physicians as a health benefit, but riding your bike might have other advantages than just a slimmer waistline and well-toned legs; recent studies have shown that cyclists are happier than your average traveller. Cycling has been embraced by some, but others still remain faithful to alternate methods of travel, and while those who live far from work may need to depend on their cars for support, those who live close by might be deterred due to other circumstances.

Supported Research

South Carolina’s Clemson University has recently performed research using data from a Time Use Survey within the U.S. The surveys showed results from over thirteen thousand men and women who were involved in a trial during which they had to answer questions about the way that they felt while completing randomly selected activities through various modes of transit. What they found was surprising as most bikers were happier people than those who chose to travel in cars or on busses. CTV News suggests: “Maybe it’s because cyclists don’t need to deal with being pushed up against a stranger in a crowded subway car. Or have to deal with the stress of traffic and aggressive drivers. Maybe it’s because they arrive to work after a solid workout, ready to tackle their day.”

They also found that those who rode bicycles were younger than other travellers, and that after cyclists, those riding as a passenger in a car were most happy followed by those driving their own cars. As mentioned above, the stress crowded subway cars force on riders makes it one of the least likable travel experience and leaves passengers feeling upset by the time they arrive at their destination, rather than happy.

How Cycling Might Affect Your Mood

It’s undetermined why cycling has this affect, just that studies have reported findings that people who ride bicycles are happier than those in cars, trains, buses or other modes of transportation. Of course, just because there are no definitive answers, doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of factors that could lead to this positivity. There have been alternate studies on how nature and being around trees and plants can change your mood, so it would make sense that enjoying an activity that keeps you outside rather than cooped up in a car or crowded bus would bring you joy. Zachary Shahan of Treehugger says: “The estimated relationship between mood and mode tends to be weak and often not statistically significant. Nevertheless, we find that bicyclists have the most positive affect.”

Another possible reason for these alterations in mood might have to do with the natural endorphins that are brought on by exercise. Using your physical strength to get yourself to work, the mall, or even just out for a pleasure ride will give you an extra boost of energy and positive emotions that sitting motionless will provide on your way from point A to point B.

What This Means

The study above was published in Transportation journal, and the information gathered from the survey could be used in the future to change the public transport system so that travellers don’t feel so much negativity when they need to get on a bus or subway. Other public community programs that could change or be invested in could be related to bicycles. Having a bike-share program and better bike storage in shopping and business districts might provide more enthusiasm for this physical method of transit. Many cities already have bike-share programs in place; in fact, London has shown a statically relevant health benefit for the population, especially among men.

Other Reasons To Bike

It’s common knowledge that bike riding is good for your body, particularly your heart, and it could be an answer to the rising levels of obesity across the country. One misconception that people have about using biking as a mode of exercise and transportation is that it wears you out and leaves you feeling tired, but scientific studies have proven otherwise. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics journal published a study that reported bikes as lowering levels of fatigue and boosting energy levels by more than twenty percent. This happens as cortisol is expensed and dopamine takes over as you cycle. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that your body releases when it’s physically active, it helps increase energy as you go. This kind of energy boost could be a big help in fighting fat, especially if you’re willing to sit on the bike for up to an hour a day. NHS states: “For example, someone who weighs 80kg (12st 9lb) will burn more than 650 calories with an hour’s riding, and tone their legs and bottom. If you ride up hills or off-road, you’ll also work your upper body.”

A definite advantage to this combination of renewed energy and burned calories as you travel could mean not having to pay for a pricey gym membership, as you could burn fat during simple transit ventures between home and work, or school to the library for study.

One thing that’s important when utilizing a bicycle, especially on main roads during busy traffic is that you abide by all the rules of the road and wear protective gear. Riding a bicycle as an adult is a little different than riding as a child does around their block, and similar to the rules and signs that cars must follow, there are signals and guidelines that cyclists must follow as well.