By Mark Underwood
The annual Tour de France bike race in Europe is one of the ultimate tests of strength, endurance, and tenacity. Just completing the race is a life accomplishment for most riders.
But recently, scientists who have been studying the effects of biking on the brain and body have found biking can improve brain health as well as having physical benefits.
We were designed to work and exert energy through exercise, but can biking really be good for your brain? The brain needs to be exercised so research has demonstrated that as fitness levels increase depression levels can be reduced and wellbeing improves.
With a daily 30-minute bike ride of medium intensity, you can improve your mood and wellbeing, and most importantly, reduce stress. Just like the heart, the brain needs to be active and fit to perform at optimum levels.
Biking has been found to be one of the most effective ways to improve your physical health. It’s an easy, low impact exercise and can be adjusted to your own fitness level.
Riding a bike regularly may have many benefits that we’re just beginning to understand. One thing that is known is that biking, like other aerobic activities, helps to stimulate the brain, and reduce the burden of stress.
One concentrated study at Tohoku University in Japan looked at motorcycle use and its effects on the brain. They studied Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans and found that riding activates prefrontal areas of the brain. These prefrontal areas are stimulated as the brain zips signals to the body to steer the bike.
Their Department of Functional Brain Imaging found that riding helps keep drivers young by invigorating their brains.
The study found an area called the bilateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) was activated while riding. When these areas are simulated, they positively affected cognitive functions, stress reduction, memory, and concentration. These studies also suggest similar results will be found with bike riders.