101 reasons to love cycling #22 - it keeps you sane

And so we continue with our 101 reasons to love cycling in London, and reach number twenty two...


Mental health must be one of the last great taboos in our society: nobody wants to talk about it, but it effects more of us than we care to admit.  And with our busy modern lifestyles it's hardly any surprise that mental health conditions are on the rise...  Who hasn't, at some point in their life, found things a little hard going in their heads?


Broadway Market boys

It would seem our medical professionals are begining to realise that cycling can help combat this issue.  Guidance from the Government's Chief Medical Officer says ""Physical activity is effective in the treatment of clinical depression, and can be as successful as psychotherapy or medication, particularly in the long term."  And cycling, of course, has no negative side effects; only positives.  Cycling can be many things to many people; you don't have to be battling your way to work each morning for cycling to have something positive to give you.

Tower Hamlets, the London borough where I live, has pioneered the first ever cycling on prescription service.  Dr Rachel Bower, one of the architects of the project, explains:
""Exercise can also be as effective as antidepressants for treating some types of depression, and can protect against other diseases such as dementia, osteoporosis and some cancers."


Keeping fit of mind and fit of body?  It's reason 22 to love cycling in London!

11 comments:

ragtag said...

Actually the reason I took up cycling again was just for this reason. I was very depressed and having third low in 6 years.

My doctor said I should do some exercise but joining a gym was a big no. I tried that once before, found it even more depressing to be honest.

So anyway, we bought a couple of bikes and now cycle 12 miles to work and with the family at the weekend. Opened up a whole bunch of opportunities, got me in a national newspaper and improved my results at work.

I'm also a lot fitter, with two kids that really helps.

Steph said...

I always think cycling in a busy urban environment is actually quite soothing for your brain as it allows it to tune out everything and focus what's happening at that moment.

I sometimes think it's one of the few activities that is meditative without being somnolent.

ragtag said...

Steph, very much agree, which is why I never use iPod. Just think about riding while riding. :o)

Lady VĂ©lo said...

I also agree with Steph on this one. I've been finding that I'm more relaxed and much happier after a Cycle, which is why I can't wait to start riding to work. I've been under massive amounts of stress with my job, so I think it'll gear me up for the day ahead!

Mark said...

Hello everyone, thanks for taking the time and stopping by.

I totally agree that the actual act of just concentrating on riding and the task in hand is incredibly soothing: when I take the Tube I get home and have to download my day to my long-suffering other half - how stressful work has been, how horrible the journey was etc. When I cycle by the time I get home my day in the office has already been forgotten and I feel set for a fun evening - so much better, don't you think?

Likewise when I cycle to work in the morning I feel raring to go by the time I reach the office, whereas if I use public transport I am still half asleep when I get there.

I also like the zen-like quality of cycling itself on long rides on quiet country roads too; the turning and turning of the pedals and the rhythm are fantastic and so soothing.

Glad we all agree! Cycling rocks!

Cait said...

What was that book, or leaflet that came out of Holland stressing the health benefits of cycling? What we need is a decent (and well regarded by govt) health related think tank to look at the health benefit estimates in terms of reduction in depression, increased fitness reducing heart disease, decrease in dementia (really? That's new to me, but makes sense) and apply those economic benefits to a) the increase in GDP as a result of regained work hours and b) decrease in cost to the NHS.

*Then* maybe we might end up with some decent infrastructural funding? Al very well offering tax free bikes through work programmes (which don't get me wrong, are fab), but if spending on making cycling safe in our cities is then *reduced* as with London, then any increase in the number of cyclists on the road is serious tempered by fear when, say two seasoned cyclists die on the road in the space of a week.

Mark said...

Cait, bang on the nail and ever observant as always!

Whilst I like the particular cycling on prescription service BECAUSE it is off road and helps people build up their confidence (remember cycling can be many things to many people) I totally agree that building liveable communities is the key to tackling our growing health problems. Aside from specialist programs like this which are designed to combat specific issues, having a more active population in general will help to keep the fat at bay..

As for the stats, I can't quite place my hand on them right now but yes, they are very impressive indeed. Sadly, the Government has seen these too and probably knows that to bring about that kind of statistical change they'd have to build infrastructure which is perceived to inconvenience the motorist which of course isn't a vote winner (as if the current over-loaded road infrastructure doesn't inconvenience motorists already! Build proper bike lanes and the motorists will be thanking us for unlocking congestion!)

Mark said...

And regarding the cuts in the safety funds and the recent deaths of cyclists under the wheels of HGVs - these are, undoubtedly, tragic and totally avoidable. Much more on that to come...

David Hembrow said...

Cait asked about the book about cycling and health distributed in the Netherlands. details are here. It's now been distributed to every doctor's waiting room on the country.

Mark said...

Thank you David!

Helen said...

Ha! I'm the sanest person I know! :-) But seriously, I can claim to be pretty darn upbeat most of the time. My ride to work is so non-stress and wonderful. How can I be in a bad mood when I get there? Rain, cold, snow, heat - half the fun is "just doing it."