Your Brain on Cycling
Three ways your brain benefits from riding your bike.
CONCENTRATION Activities that require balance, quick reactions and decision-making skills— like martial arts, gymnastics and cycling—best control ADHD in children, says psychiatrist David Conant-Norville, MD. A Vanderbilt University study shows that these activities may help adults with focus and concentration too. Participants who performed a short but complex exercise were 40 percent more likely to solve a puzzle than idle participants. The takeaway: If you’re stuck on a problem, go for a ride.
STRESS AND ANXIETY Research has shown that vigorous exercise is so effective at quelling anxiety and depression that some patients have been able to reduce or eliminate the use of medications such as Prozac and Zoloft. In a study at the University of Southern Mississippi, participants who suffered from generalized anxiety disorder and exercised at 60 to 90 percent of their maximum heart rates for three 20-minute sessions per week saw significant decreases in anxiety sensitivity and fear after just two workouts. Further research has shown that people who get regular vigorous exercise are less likely to develop anxiety disorders and depression.
MEMORY For the hippocampus—a region of the brain that controls long-term and spatial memory—bigger is better. And as with the rest of your body’s muscles, exercise makes the hippocampus grow. A University of Illinois and University of Pittsburgh joint study found that physically fit participants had larger hippocampi and performed 40 percent better on memory tests. Other reports show that exercise helps older adults retain cognitive function and avoid disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia.