Riding and Mental Health: The Benefits of Riding Over Winter

Cycling in winter, bicycle in a snowy field with hazy sunshine

For many of us, when the weather turns and it seems dark all the time, the last thing you want to do is ride. Whether you mountain bike, commute by bike or head out on your motorbike, it’s important to grab the chance when an opportunity arises!

It doesn’t matter if you ride-all-year-round, or tend to prefer riding in better weather, getting out will give you a boost.

Five Ways Riding Helps Your Mental Health 

When that black cloud descends and you find yourself lacking motivation it can feel almost impossible to do anything. Even when you sit there telling yourself that you know you’ll feel better if you go out, sometimes try as you might, it doesn’t happen.

You’ll probably already know so much of this, but when you feel low, riding often feels like a chore. That’s exactly why it’s so good to get out, the benefits of riding, especially in the winter can really help. Whilst it’s not always possible, or safe to get out for a ride, when you can, make time to do it. 

Here’s how riding can help you stay healthy:

  • It helps boost your mood 
  • Risk factors for several diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are lowered
  • It gives you a greater sense of wellbeing
  • Your risk of dementia is lowered
  • It helps you sleep better

According to a report about the health benefits of walking and cycling from Public Health England, “Regular physical activity benefits long-term health, including mental health, and helps to prevent over 20 common health conditions.”

There aren’t too many specific studies about cycling and mental health, but one US study by three consecutive Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys found that ‘cycling as a form of exercise was associated with the second largest reduction in the number of bad self-reported mental health.’ 

In 2021, cycling company See.Sense surveyed over 200 cyclists. In the survey, they asked people how cycling made them feel. Their survey found that “79% of cyclists said they feel better both mentally and physically after going for a ride.”

How Cycling in Winter Helps Mental Health

Rather than only give statistics, we wanted to talk to people about riding and how it helps them. Many people still cycle through the harshest weather, with many sharing stories of how it impacts their mental health. Here are just a few of the responses: 

Yellow bike against an autumnal background

“I love winter cycling, but only above 5 degrees (Raynaud’s & ice risk). I have good lights and love quiet lanes where most cars think it's another car approaching and pull in. Essential for my mental health to get out and keep fit.”Guto Bongos

Bicycle against a snowy field in hazy sunshine

“Definitely ride less but always enjoy it just as much. Sometimes motivation is a bit harder but I remind myself that some of the best rides are in the most adverse conditions.”
 - Tom Wilde 

So, make sure you take a break and get out for a ride! Don’t feel pressured, just work on what’s manageable for you - even if that means getting out once a month! Just do what you can and enjoy time on two wheels.

If you ride, you’ll know exactly how good you feel after you’ve been out. If you’re struggling to motivate yourself, consider finding someone else to ride with, being accountable to others helps. Plus, it’s always nice to catch up with people. 

Although there are more safety concerns in winter, as long as you stay safe and have the right gear, you’re guaranteed to feel better after a ride. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious or a little low, schedule some time to ride and go enjoy the change in seasons!

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