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Managing Mental Health Through Cycling

Cycling helps with a range of health benefits. From improved joint mobility to better posture, but did you know how much it can also help with your mental health?

At a time when we still have to manage the Covid-19 pandemic through observing social distancing, getting out on a cycle for even relatively short periods of time, is a great way of helping to overcome and manage the anxiety of life during this time and at the same time boost your overall well-being.

Cycling helps with a range of health benefits. From improved joint mobility to better posture, but did you know how much it can also help with your mental health?

Let’s look at the top 5 mental health benefits of cycling.

Reduces stress and improve fitness levels

Day-to-day life can be overwhelming with worries about health, the economy and job security, health of family members, childcare issues and anything else that is of concern, but getting out on your bike can help you to better manage these day-to-day stresses.

The key to the therapeutic qualities of cycling is its inherent mindfulness. Being on a cycle allows you to focus on the physical aspects of cycling and helps to engage the mind and body purely on the task of riding. This helps take away any negative, swirling thoughts, which can take on such a greater and troubling significance when we obsess over them.  Once into a rhythm on the road or canal path means that your thoughts focus each pedal stroke. In time you can think about how hard to push yourself and raise the intensity.

There are other health benefits as well in terms of overall fitness. So not only does general cardiovascular exercise reduce stress, cycling in particular is proven to reduce anxiety.

Helps boost concentration

Studies have shown that employees who cycle to work are more productive, with boosted energy levels and the ability to concentrate for longer periods of time (1). Cycling can improve problem-solving skills through improving levels of concentration, which is very useful in pretty much all lines of work.

Contributes to a better night’s sleep 

Cycling has been proven to reduce levels of cortisol (stress hormones) in the body, which disturb a restful and deep sleep. It also supports the increase of serotonin, which can also improve sleep. In addition, cycling can help stabilize your circadian rhythm, which in turn can improve sleep patterns.

The health benefits of good sleep are many, as during sleep your body heals and repairs your heart and blood vessels and ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke

Improves your temperament

Cyclists talk about a ‘cycling high’ and science has proven that this is a real thing. After a ride, you’ll experience a spike in neurochemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. Not only do they improve your mood, but this hit of endorphins can stimulate the same areas of the brain as a painkiller.

Cycling helps with anxiety

Getting out and about in the great outdoors has been proven to help with anxiety. Being outside in the natural light can also help with seasonal affective disorder.

As well as this, being outside improves your vitamin D intake. Some studies have even seen individuals experience a reduction in blood pressure from a short bike ride.

What are the practical steps that employers can take to support employees with cycling?

In this time of increased anxiety and uncertainty, employers can encourage employees to take up cycling by introducing and promoting the cycle2work scheme.

How does the cycle2work scheme work?

The cycle to work scheme is an affordable way to purchase cycles, as it a Government-backed initiative which helps employees save 25-39% on the cost of bikes, e-bikes, cycling accessories, clothing and bicycle components by spreading the cost interest-free (typically over 12 months) through a salary sacrifice arrangement.

New guidance by the Department of Transport in 2019 removed the previous budget cap of £1,000 on any purchase. Which means that cyclists can now get bikes through the scheme over £1,000 which makes e-bikes fall easily within the scheme. This means that employees can save on the total cost of the package, not just the first £1,000 as previously.

Employees can choose from a vast range of bike brands available in the UK market. The employer will then provide employees with their chosen bicycle and take an equivalent amount of the employee’s normal salary as a salary sacrifice. Unlike the salary, employees do not pay any tax or National Insurance on the value of the bike so they can save between 25-39% on the costs, a significant amount of money to save.  Employers save too! Not only will they recover the full cost of the bike, they also have a NICs saving up to 13.8% of the value.

In summary

The demands of on-going social distancing has significantly increased the popularity of cycling from being just an option, to one of a must use forms of transport for those needing to travel to work and importantly as a means of exercise for those working remotely. This change underlines and strengthens the safety aspects of cycling as a means of transport both for the short and long term

 

 

Notes:

  1. HR Review Magazine: https://www.hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/staff-productivity-shifts-up-a-gear-through-popularity-of-cycle-to-work-schemes/111942

 

Wojciech Dochan

Managing Director Busy Bees Benefits

Provider of the SmartHive Platform 

Smart Hive is an integrated, cost effective employee benefits platform that provides your employees with access to all their health and wellbeing benefits in one place. Talk to a member of our team today or book your very own demonstration.