Aggressive Driver? Use Bicycling to Master Your Mood
By Nigel Evans
Biking insurance company Cycleplan commissioned a survey last year to help understand the health benefits associated with cycling. The results were quite interesting, with 75% of respondents reporting they experienced a "boost" to their mental health following the activity.
The link between general health and exercise is clear, but this study helps to focus on mental health problems, such as anxiety, anger, and road rage. As drivers of every age encounter mood and mental health issues, they may benefit from a new exercise regime and, specifically, some time on two wheels instead of four. So, why is regular exercise like this so important and how can it help to make the average driver more stable behind the wheel?
Exercise and the Mind
The Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero may have been one of the first to recognize how important exercise could be in maintaining a balanced mind. “It is exercise alone that supports the spirit, and keeps the mind in vigor,” he said. Marcus may not have had access to a bicycle to help prove his point, but he was spot on in his estimation.
Scientists have conducted several studies in more recent times including an analysis of the effect of physical exercise on self-concept and well-being, published in the International Journal of Sports Psychology in 2000.
A separate report published in the American Journal of Psychiatry cited work with 22,000 healthy Norwegians. Those that exercised regularly for as little as one hour a week were less likely to develop anxiety, depression and other issues during the following decade.
The YMCA also chimed in on the subject. People who had an active lifestyle reported well-being scores that were, on average, 32% higher than those who were typically sedentary.
These and many other studies pinpoint how physical activity can improve mental health by promoting better sleep or by managing stress, anxiety and other states of mind.
Still, there are many forms of exercise. Some people head to the gym each morning, while others do a few laps of their local swimming pool. Is cycling an even more beneficial form of exercise?
The Ultimate Form of Exercise
Cycling is a great, all-around form of exercise for many reasons:
It’s relatively easy to take up as it does not require elevated levels of physical skill. Those who have never ridden a bike before may wobble, to begin with, but once mastered, they’ll never forget.
Cycling can be intense or passive, to take into account individual levels of energy, existing injury or illness and adjusted accordingly.
Biking can serve as transportation! Biking can replace hours of sedentary time spent behind the wheel of a stationary car in a traffic jam, for example.
Cycling can give all the major muscle groups a significant workout and is a much lower impact activity than other forms of exercise, like weightlifting or even running. The cyclist is likely to sustain fewer injuries and will recover more quickly following their activity.
Specifically, those who cycle regularly can expect:
increased muscle flexibility and strength,
increased cardiovascular health,
stronger bone structure and improvements in mobility,
lowered levels of body fat.
Calming Aggressive Driver Tendencies
Many older adults encounter mood-related issues when they are behind the wheel, which can often lead to road rage or other poor judgment calls. These incidents can lead to law enforcement involvement if any laws are broken along the way, too. Hopefully, an aggressive driver will find their way into an online drivers ed program and will question why they committed these acts in the first place.
Often, this behavior results from elevated stress levels, displaced anger, and tension. These drivers may well benefit from a new exercise regime, to contain those stress levels and make them a more passive driver, rather than an aggressive driver, behind the wheel.
Teens, Depression, and Exercise
Cycling is a smart hobby for riders of all ages. Taking up the pastime may well help teenagers and adolescents deal with an episode of depression.
Harvard University found that 11% of adolescents are depressed and this can contribute to poor grades in school, physical health issues, bad relationships, and questionable lifestyle choice. Unfortunately, this can also lead to issues as the teen gets permission to drive and takes to the road.
Exercise could be the perfect treatment for depression in teens and studies have shown this to be the case.
In one particular test, they split teens into several groups with some receiving exercise treatment for depression, others subject to an educational or psycho-social intervention, one group receiving conventional treatment and others no treatment at all. In conclusion, the authors of the study found that exercise led to moderately improved depression in the adolescents, especially when combined with some other formal treatment.
Time for Action
There is every reason for drivers to swap four wheels for two and to engage in a new cycling program. There is never a better time than the present either, and May's National Bike Month is a perfect time to try out this new activity.
And with a time for action, comes a time of caution. U.S. drivers may often feel "cyclists just get in the way," especially if they're unfamiliar with bike riding. They may not give them the correct amount of respect on the road, which could also cause dangerous, harmful incidents. What if they were to take up cycling themselves? They would quickly understand the health benefits associated with the pastime, but they may even find they are more accepting of others while behind the wheel as well.