Proof cycling makes you smarter

May 07, 2019 3 min read

Proof cycling makes you smarter

If you need an additional reason to spend more time on the bike, or you need to convince your partner that your cycling addiction is healthy, or maybe even get them in the saddle too, here’s some revealing and motivating information about how cycling can boost your mental strength and ability.

Scientists from the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research conducted tests with surprising results. When completing tests on memory, planning and reasoning people did significantly better after spending 30 minutes on a stationary bike compared to those in the study who did no riding. Not only were the scores consistently higher for those who pedalled, they also completed the tests faster.

The findings were pretty clear. Adults who exercise moderately and consistently have higher concentration, sharper memory, increased problem solving ability and more fluid thinking compared to those who don’t exercise.

If you want to utilise these findings in everyday life it’s as simple as cycling to work every morning and riding home in the afternoon, or taking advantage of the quiet morning roads and going for a spin during the early hours before work and then running some errands on the bike in the afternoon, when you start to feel that mental sluggishness come in. For the gym busters, make sure you include some spin classes in your workout rotation and go early in the day so you can put that brain power to good use.

How does it work?

By cycling for 30 minutes or more you provide healthy amounts of oxygen to your brain and increase the volume of blood vessels that flow around your body meaning that your organs, including your brain, get more nutrients, clear more waste and refresh more often. That means you feel bright, sharp and alert for longer periods of time and can function at a higher capacity.

As well as a bigger blood boost, cycling also helps stimulate more nerve cells, meaning that the pathways and connecting neurons in your brain talk to each other more frequently, and make additional proteins to create new brain cells.

The difference is significant, we’re talking double, or even triple standard neuron production in the brains of those who exercise well. Not only do you have more brain power to draw on, it responds faster and it works much more effectively. No wonder you feel energised and ready to go after a ride!

It’s just another reason why riding is a great sport to take up as you age (or continue to enjoy as you get older if you are already active on the bike). When we are born we have millions more neurons and connections than when we are adults. As we grow and develop we shed or forget the ones we don’t need, the older we get the weaker and fewer the connections become, our brain literally shrinks. Exercise, especially cycling which is easy on joints and muscles, not only protects our brain connections and size, it also heals and restores our mental functions.

When it comes to exercise, cycling is a perfect pick because you can maintain a consistent effort. If the exercise you undertake is too intense, such as intervals or a marathon, rather than boost your brain power, you actually lose it temporarily while your body works to recover. So while getting on the bike twice a day is perfect, know that you don’t need to ride to excess to see incredible results.

Aim to ride between 30 minutes to an hour twice a day using about 70-75 per cent of your capacity. So while the pace is high, it’s not difficult to maintain.

A professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign went into more detail of the study of brain power and discovered that after just two months of regular a physical activity the subjects in the study showed brain volume likened to that of someone three years younger. Again, that’s after only two months of exercise.

So, just to sum up, exercise gives you a bigger brain, with better connections that work faster and has more reason to continue to replenish itself and grow: you are actually using it.

As well as sharper smarts you can also expect to have a more positive frame of mind and sustained natural hormone development from regular exercise, especially when you get outdoors and into nature.

Having fun on the bike, getting in exercise, and making yourself smarter? That’s freedom!

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