Scientists Say Biking Builds Better Brains

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Originally published on Gas2. says biking makes your brain happier and healthier. Not only does the increased blood flow from exercise increase muscle mass, it also builds brain power. It sharpens thinking and reduces stress. To listen to them tell it, riding a bicycle for 30 minutes a day helps us feel refreshed and relaxed. Apparently, it is good for whatever ails you, including the heartbreak of psoriasis.

BicyclingAccording to Bicycling, biking can grow your brain the same way it can grow your muscles. When we ride a bicycle, the blood flow to our muscles increases. Our bodies build more capillaries, which supply more blood and oxygen to those muscles. The same process actually occurs in our brains. Cycling allows our cardiovascular system to grow further into our brain, bringing it more oxygen and nutrients that can improve its performance.

When we ride our bikes, our brains also increase their production of proteins used for creating new brain cells. By biking regularly, we can double new cell production in our brains. It also increases neuro-transmitter activity, allowing the regions of our brain to communicate more effectively. That improves our cognitive abilities.

The benefits of cycling are especially important for aging brains. These processes counteract the natural decline of brain function and development as we age. Scientists have compared the brains of adults in their 60’s and 70’s and found that the brains of those who regularly participated in physical activities like cycling actually appeared younger than those who do not. This suggests that cycling helps keep our minds sharp in our later years.

These findings are important as the world considers adding bicycle infrastructure to urban areas to reduce traffic congestion and pollution from internal combustion engines. They are one more argument that can be used to promote dedicated bike paths for cyclists to get into and out of cities, as well as get from place to place within the cities themselves.

How much bicycling is right for you? If you have been astride a bicycle since the Carter Administration, 15 minutes may be enough. Some exercise is better than none. Scientists suggest that 30 to 60 minutes of steady riding at a moderate pace is  best. The goal is to maintaining a heart rate that is roughly 75% of your maximum.

For those of us not fortunate enough to live in Colorado where recreational marijuana use is permitted, riding a bike can offer similar benefits for free. It increases serotonin levels and dopamine production in our brains. It can also spur the production of endorphins and cannabinoids. Far out!

So to fight depression, ward off the effects of aging, and feel happier, follow the advice given by Queen: “Get on your bikes and ride!”

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Reprinted with permission.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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8 thoughts on “Scientists Say Biking Builds Better Brains

    • Yeah and better brain is just the bonus. You’ll get additional minute of life per minute of biking.

      • Biking is fun, if you find an exercise that is fun you are more likely to do it more often and stay with it longer.

  • And how are all these positive benefits countered by breathing in the carcinogenic, toxic fumes from traffic around you? I guess you could wear a particulate mask and be mocked. At least most modern cars have basic filters. Since driving an EV, I have become much more sensitive to exhaust fumes as I don’t smell them around my car or in my garage. My Volt was at the dealer for some recalls for a couple of days and I had to drive gasoline vehicles. I seriously thought something was wrong with them because they stunk so bad, but they had passed the state emissions test recently. It reminds me of my high school Latin teacher who stopped smoking and after a week or so was considering selling her car because she couldn’t stand the linger smell of smoke in it.

  • I recently upped my daily bike commute from 16 to 84 kilometers but sadly I do not feel that much changed because I more or less reduced other training activities accordingly. I have been run down in traffic severely twice and in one of the accidents (on a bike lane from behind) I cot 10 bone fractures – and I certainly felt miserable until I got back in shape. My bike an ancient Scott Superamerican MTB astonishing survived intact.

    I have wondered about the same thing as Tony Reyes brings up, so if anybody has some research I would be interested because I go right to the city center of Copenhagen where you can smell and see the air pollution.

    • I’m deeply impressed you are still biking after such a horrible accident. When I’m riding around very urban streets, I figure cars aren’t sealed and so their air vents are bringing in the same bad air. Plus getting the exercise must be better than a few intersections of diesel death.

  • I love to bike. But aren’t all the physical benefits mainly due to aerobic activity? Or does biking do something other activities don’t?

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