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Team GB psychiatrist tells the Beeb that keeping moving is good for your head too

We all know that cycling’s good for you. Riding regularly helps with cardio-vascular  health and keeps the weight off. But what about your non-physical health?

Studies show that even relatively mild cycling has physical benefits. After a year of bike commuting, a typical new cyclist has lost a stone in weight.

In this video from the BBC, Alex Riley talks to sport psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters, who looked after the minds of Team GB at and in the run-up to London 2012, and finds out how cycling - and exercise in general - can be good for your mental health too.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

9 comments

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 3 years ago
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Not only your mental health, although it has helped mine, but also keeping your brain from degenerating, as is happening with my Parkinson's.

But keeping myself fit and health will help keep the effects to a minimum  3

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Some Fella [890 posts] 3 years ago
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I was on the track whilst they were filming this.
Thankfully i was travelling so fast around the track you cannot see me (and my hairy legs and big fat belly)  3

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nowasps [428 posts] 3 years ago
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"Exercise is good for you. But it's hard work." Bravo, BBC.

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kie7077 [877 posts] 3 years ago
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nowasps wrote:

"Exercise is good for you. But it's hard work." Bravo, BBC.

One of the things I like about cycling is that it doesn't feel like hard work even when I'm racing along... the adrenaline reward cancels out the hard work feeling.

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Mooman16 [25 posts] 2 years ago
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Just over 2 years ago I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and mild depression. I have been cycling for about 5 years now. Just prior to my diagnosis, I was very hard on myself if I didn't have a 'perfect' experience every time I went out on a bike whether that be a short spin, a long club run with the fast group, taking part in a sportive or even a few races.

When I was diagnosed, I was put on a course of medication (Lyrica) for GAD and have been attending regular Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions. I was offered additional medication for depression, but through personal choice I decided not to. One of the side effects of Lyrica is the potential to put on weight - my metabolism has slowed somewhat. During the past 2 years I've changed my approach to cycling to manage my physical and mental health a lot better.

Sometimes it is just so bloody hard to get off my backside and get out on the bike, but I know that it is good for me. It's just too easy to let all the negative crap take over to the point where you are so anxious about 'not getting it right', having a mechanical, having an accident or being consumed with work issues. When I get out on the bike, I just feel at home ... the negatives just get left behind.

When I have occasional bad bouts of anxiety, the bike is a really excellent way of helping me work things out, thanks to the CBT skills I've developed. It also helps me manage my weight too!

When I do get on my bike now, I usually feel good afterwards at the sense of achievement. It's just a sense of well being and being on what I call 'an even keel' where you aren't experiencing extreme highs or lows and where I am able to deal with all the challenges associated with day to day life. I'm enjoying my cycling now a lot more, which encourages me to do it more, which helps my health.

The type of cycling I do now has changed .... I get a lot out of just going for a spin to a local park on my mountain bike(not just the road bike). My latest project is getting my wife and youngest child cycling too, which gives me a great sense of fulfillment.

I haven't done a lot of competition this year, but I feel that I'm getting to a point now where I've got my priorities in order and can do it for the right reasons.

Cycling is now good for me .... long may it continue.

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banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 2 years ago
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I always feel much better after a ride, even the commute to and from work, it's a feeling of being cleansed and free to think. Lots of things get put into perspective while riding my bike, it's a meditation.

And then of course there is always the sense of achievement after climbing a hill, and the thrill of the decent.

Life without my bike would be.......... unthinkable!

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GerardR [123 posts] 2 years ago
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Your tale makes my reluctance to get out seem mostly like sheer laziness.

Good on you for sticking with cycling and, as you say, long may it continue. I'm sure your family appreciate the difference.

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graham_f [186 posts] 2 years ago
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In a previous job I used to have a 25 mile round trip commute every day, which I cycled. There were occasions where I'm sure I was more productive cycling home than I had been all day, as I could think much more clearly about problems I was trying to resolve while cycling than by staring at them on a computer screen.

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chrisl [51 posts] 2 years ago
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I had a crash about 3 months ago, and one of the tougher parts has been the resulting depression. It's something I have a tendency towards generally, and it's helped that it had a specific and definable set of causes, but crumbs! 8 weeks off exercising did not help.
The improvement in my mood from the first week I started riding a little was like night and day. There's a lot of body chemicals that keep the brain in check that are boosted by exercise. At the moment I can tell I'm not totally balanced, but at least it's a heck of a lot better base state to be a bit iffy from.