Across Canada, people are pulling their bicycles out of sheds and garages – and not just because it’s spring. Many of us are feeling locked in as we socially distance ourselves to slow the spread of the coronavirus. One solution? Get on your bike. Canadians are cycling more than usual, finding the bike a great option for completing chores and getting fresh air and exercise while physically distancing themselves.
This is all good news for your mental and physical health.
Helping your mental health
“There are many benefits to cycling, including an increase in energy, focus and clarity - cycling basically feeds the brain,” explains Jason White, a Certified Athletic Therapist and the principle Athletic Therapist (AT) and owner of Jason White Therapy in Toronto.
As Jason explains, when we exercise, we increase the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain which then releases growth hormones. “When these growth hormones are released,” says Jason, “they activate the release of mood-enhancing endorphins such as serotonin, which makes us happy, and dopamine, which gets us energized and motivated.” If the brain is well supplied with blood and oxygen, it improves our cognitive abilities, “which also improves our subjective mood, reduces anxiety and allows us to handle stress more effectively,” explains Jason. All important during this stressful time.
Healthy happy heart
Another benefit to cycling is that it’s mainly an aerobic activity, which means it stimulates and strengthens the heart and lungs, improving how the body uses oxygen. “This can result in lowering blood pressure, it helps regulate blood sugar, reduces chronic pain, aids with sleep, and regulates your weight, to name a few benefits,” explains Jason. Cycling is also a low impact exercise. “Cycling is one of the few exercises that you can do with bad knees and bad hips,” says Jason. “It is an ideal form of exercise that gradually increases your fitness levels while still building strength and increasing mobility.”
Other benefits and guidelines
So, now you know the physical and mental benefits of cycling. There are other benefits to cycling during the pandemic too: quieter roads since more people are working from home and non-essential businesses are closed. And, picking up groceries or a prescription might be faster on a bike than driving!
However, before you strap on your helmet and head to the grocery store, make sure you know the guidelines for cycling during the pandemic. While the federal government hasn’t prohibited outdoor cycling, you should check with your local health authority to see if your area has stricter rules. And you still need to practice physical distancing even on a bike: keep two metres away from other people. Most jurisdictions have included bike repair stores as essential services during the pandemic. Consider getting a tune up if you haven’t used your bike in a few years.
To help with your mental and physical health, and to help you get out of your home and get fresh air, get on your bike. “Cycling is something that just about anyone can do,” says Jason. “Your brain and body will thank you.”
R.Kin, RMT,CAT(C), SMT(C)
As a former competitive swimmer, Jason White experienced his share of injuries and treatment. His desire to help others overcome injuries and resume healthy lifestyles led him to becoming an Athletic Therapist and RMT, and is the focus of his current private practice.