Biking is virtually all good news: Saves money, saves the planet, keeps people healthier, is fashionable among the rich and famous, can reduce prison sentences. And now, studies are pointing to brain benefits from biking.
Danish researchers were looking at the benefits of breakfast and lunch on school children and found that how the children got to school was actually of great importance. They found that the kids who walked or rode their bikes did better on tests than those who got to school by car or public transport.
John Ratey, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told The Independent that he’s seen patients with severe depression greatly improve after cycling. Ratey says that a current study his department is working on includes 20 children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who are all expected to show improved symptoms after cycling. He says cycling, like Ritalin, increases levels of neurotransmitters.
It’s not just kids who see benefits in concentration and coordination from cycling. Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute neuroscientist Dr. Jay Alberts conducted a cycling-based experiment with 26 Parkinson’s disease patients. Alberts scanned the patients’ brains during and then a month after the eight-week stationary bike experiment. All the patients showed improvement, but the experiment showed that the 13 participants who were pushed to cycle harder had significantly more areas of grey matter connectivity.
Even more astonishing is the New England Journal of Medicine Youtube video of a 58-year-old patient with a 10-year history of Parkinson’s barely able to shuffle down a hospital corridor who then gets on a bike and pedals through the parking lot with incredible balance and ease. Check it out:
Image: Woman’s silhouette with bicycle mechanism in her brain via Shutterstock