Ride Your Way To Happiness

The physical benefits of regular exercise are universally accepted, and the mental health benefits—particularly as they relate to anxiety and depression—are becoming more widely acknowledged as well. Now, according to a study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Annual Meeting, we may be able to add anger management to the list. From the ACSM press release:

A research team assessed angry mood and emotions in 16 collegiate men high in “trait anger.” The subjects viewed anger-inducing scenes before and after 30 minutes of leg-cycling exercise at 65 percent of their maximal oxygen uptake. The investigators measured oscillatory brain activity, the event-related late-positive potential (LPP), and self-reports of anger intensity during picture viewing.

“The major novel finding from this study is that exercise protected against angry mood induction, almost like taking aspirin to prevent a heart attack,” said lead investigator Nathaniel Thom, Ph.D., a stress physiologist.

In another paper, published in 2005 in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research, researchers from the University of Essex confirmed something that most of us bicycle riders already knew intuitively: as little as five minutes a day of exercise in a natural environment can improve mental health. The activities studied included walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding and farming. From the study:

Our findings suggest that exercise in pleasant environments may have a greater effect than
exercise alone on blood pressure, an important measure of cardiovascular health, and on
measures that are relevant to mental health. We conclude that green exercise has important
implications for public and environmental health. A fitter and emotionally more content
population would clearly cost the economy less as well as reducing individual human

The message here? Ride your bike and participate in active transportation on a daily basis to be a happier and healthier person!

11 Responses to “Ride Your Way To Happiness”

  • Jim says:

    What a contrast to the sad road rage reported here (the comments are also alarming), via @pathlesspedaled. Anyway, I certainly agree that going for a ride can lift your spirits. (Yet another good reason for bike commuting!)

  • Andy says:

    Every bike commuter knows that cycling is a great stress reliever and anti-depressant. I’m glad these benefits are getting wider recognition.

  • Fergie348 says:

    It always lifts my spirits to ride – at least until someone in a metal box gets agitated that I’m impeding their progress (last time it happened, the guy was driving a Maserati..). Oh well, keep smiling and riding, that’s what I say!

  • Bomber says:

    Yup, I strongly agree. I cycle both because I have been a long time cyclist AND most importantly because I’m an Iraq Vet dealing with a lot of anger issues as well. I strongly agree and hope that research continues. There is so much more good science that can go along with the “feel good” vibe of cycling. We all have a lot more to learn and I believe that we’ve just scratched the surface of excercise benefits.

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    Speaking as a psychologist… On the one hand, yes: exercise can combat depression. But on the other hand, it can also trigger addiction receptors, and the person can grow to “need” more and more of it in order to function at the same level. It’s all give and take, and the way the results of such studies are reported tends to leave out the full picture.

  • Alan says:

    @Lovely Bicycle!

    Very interesting! I suppose as addictions go, bicycling’s not a bad one… :-)

  • Ted says:

    Amen to the tested theory that exercise combats depression and relieves stress! And bicycling can be one of the least stressful on the knees! Combine with swimming and some moderate weight lifting and you’ve got a robust, balanced regimen for long-life. I’ve found that even a short 3 to 5 mile ride around the neighborhood reduces my stress, promotes more restful sleep and keeps the body toned. And that weekend morning ride of 30+ miles is even better! After years of the gym grind and pounding pavement, biking is the only exercise I don’t find myself getting bored with.

  • bongobike says:

    Couldn’t agree more! All of us cyclists already know this (and runners and anyone else who does aerobic exercise regularly).

    Lovely and Alan,
    What a wonderful addiction. If I develop resistance and start needing more, I guess I can start that cross-country tour I’ve always dreamed of. :-)

  • bongobike says:

    BTW, the sad part is that so many people DON’T know how good they could feel if they exercised. I personally know so many who sit around doing nothing and medicate their depressions with food. Then they get obese, start having all these medical conditions, take drugs to try and alleviate the symptoms and end up getting progressively worse. Sad, sad, sad.

  • Kallie says:

    How perfect! Just this morning I was running a bit late for work, and when I got there (right on time, by the way) I thought “wow, if I was in a car I’d be angry about traffic and not being able to go fast enough, but on my bike I just stepped it up a little and made my best time in to work to date, with a smile” :) Car-free for two months now and loving it.

    Love the blog Alan, thanks!

  • townmouse says:

    Definitely with @Lovely Bicycle on the addiction issue. Although as others have said, there are worse problems to have. Any addiction that helps you shed pounds, lowers your blood pressure and reduces your carbon footprint has to be a benign one

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