Most recreational cyclists ride for fun and fitness. Once you get started, you tend to get hooked. It’s not a coincidence that people often refer to themselves as “addicted” to their bike rides or Spinning classes. It is fun, and as you get stronger, you want to do more. Even more than the tangible benefits, our brains benefit in ways that are just now being studied.
Two recent articles in The Atlantic Cities (Why We Need More Research Into Cycling and Brain Science) and (The Link Between Kids Who Walk or Bike to School and Concentration) point out that the brain power used while riding benefits our ability to do other tasks.
Although eating a good breakfast has long been touted to help kids stay focused in school, the author cites a study that says exercise produces better results. In light of increasing childhood obesity, decreasing attention spans, and funding cuts that affect sports and even recess in some school districts, the obvious solution is to get kids active in the morning by walking or biking to school. In real life, however, the obvious solution is rarely implemented.
Most people don’t want their kids on the streets without adult supervision. They could form walking groups (akin to a carpool), but that takes effort and cooperation. Most people won’t take the time to walk or ride with their kids to school because it’s easier to drive. Most people don’t bike to work, so they would have to go back home to get the car, and that takes extra time. It’s too much trouble to change habits, and if the kid has trouble concentrating, there’s medication for that.
Naturally, I’m generalizing about “most people,” at least in the United States. The articles refer to a Danish study, and point out that cycling is a way of life in the Netherlands.
Here, we are much more dependent on cars. In my community, the public schools provide bus service for anyone living outside of the square mile where their elementary school is located. In theory, those who would have to cross the busiest streets forming the quadrant are given a safer alternative, and those who live in the neighborhood should have a short walk without traffic congestion. Judging by the cars lined up mornings and afternoons, it seems like a lot of people driving half a mile to school school create most of that congestion. One charter school even banned bicycles. I can only guess this was done by owners wanting to cover their assets in case of potential litigation.
Obviously commuting by bike has its obstacles, but those who choose to do so report they are calmer, more focused and happier. Some use it to overcome depression and ADD in lieu of drugs.
I don’t know about true depression, but I missed my weekly group bike ride on Saturday, and the whole day just seemed off. I intended to ride, but a wind storm interrupted my sleep, and the ensuing rain led me to turn off my alarm and go back to bed. Imagine my disappointment when I awoke to a calm and sunny morning, while my friends were out enjoying the scenery and hills at Usery Pass. I felt so disjointed that I ended up staying my pajamas all day!