“Use your head” typically is the same as saying “Think it through”, but there’s far more to this. Like any muscle, your brain responds very well to sustained aerobic exercise.
Physical exercise for my brain?
Yes, absolutely! Look, doing puzzles, like sudoku or similar, is a good workout for your brain, but doing physical exercise is immensely good for your brain. Why? Read on!
Aerobic exercise and brain volume
It is scientific fact that aerobic exercise stimulated the creation of new neurons in your brain, and cycling is excellent aerobic exercise. Yes, cycling quite literally grows more brain cells, and improve cognitive function, as well as spatial memory.
Importantly, not only does aerobic exercise show improvement of the hippocampus area of the brain, but it is also linked with the preservation of white and grey matter in the frontal, temporal and parietal cortexes. Those are areas that tend to shrink with age!
Plasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt and form new neural connections, and it’s vital to maintain this throughout your life. It is this that counteracts the cognitive decline normally associated with aging.
While there are clear benefits to following a structured training programme on a smart turbo trainer, nothing beats getting outside. The benefits of what is called green exercise have been proven beyond any doubt.
Green exercise, in case you were wondering, is cycling in rural areas, away from cityscapes. It is proven to make a material improvement to an individual’s mental health, both in well populations, and amongst those suffering from diagnosed mental illnesses.
More to the point, research shows bouts of green exercise are substantially more beneficial to psychological well-being than the same exercise carried out indoors, or in built-up outdoor environments.
Where are you going with this?
Simple: we know that cycling is fantastic for your brain’s physical well-being, and we know that cycling outside, in rural landscapes, is extremely good for your mental health. And all that is in addition to the physical health benefits for your body!
Putting it all together
Most of us live in cities, and a far smaller number are fortunate enough to live in the sticks. Especially if you live in a large city, you need to plan regular cycling escapes from the city, even if only for a weekend.
And the very best way to enjoy hours of rural cycling bliss is to go cycle touring. Consider a set route, escaping for just two or three days, or take on larger challenges, such as the iconic C2C route.
It doesn’t matter which you choose, as long as you get out there, into a green environment, and ride your bike. Your mental health will benefit enormously, as will your physical health, all while you’ll be making your brain bigger and healthier, and vastly reducing the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s.