Standing up for mental health: One step or ride at a time

smiling female cyclist
Cyclists on a bridge
man wearing sunglasses walks on a path

One in four of us experience a mental health problem each year. So, the chances are most of us have some experience of mental health, whether that’s first hand or through someone we know - a friend, family member or work colleague. 

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest physical activity, such as walking and cycling, has a positive impact on our mental, as well as physical, health, helping to alleviate – and even prevent - depression, stress and anxiety.

Physical activity can increase mental alertness, energy, positive mood and self-esteem, as well as reducing stress and anxiety, according to the Mental Health Foundation. Research published by the Black Dog Institute found that just one hour of exercise a week can help prevent depression. 

Technology plays an increasingly prominent role in our personal and professional lives - fewer of us are in jobs involving manual work and we are spending more of our leisure time in front of screens too.

Since the 1960’s we have become 20% less active and if current trends continue we will be 35% less active by 2030. 

Walking and cycling is part of the solution

It’s clear: we need to move more for the sake of our minds as well as our bodies. 

According to government guidelines, adults should get a minimum 150 minutes of physical activity a week, but the British Heart Foundation Physical Inactivity Report 2017 found that about 39% of UK adults - that’s around 20 million people – are failing to meet this target. 

One way to make sure you’re getting enough exercise is to do 30 minutes at least five times a week - the perfect length for short, local journeys by bike.

Many people find cycling clears the mind and helps them shake off the stresses of the day.

In 2013 our survey of people using the National Cycle Network showed that 84% felt more relaxed and less stressed as a result of using the Network, and 78% felt happier. These statistics are likely to be related to the 88% of users who like the pleasant surroundings of their local walking and cycling network.

Not only can this kind of regular exercise lead to better sleep and improved body image, it’s also a great way to meet new people, spend time with friends and family, connect with nature and explore your local area. 

The other great thing about cycling and walking is that once you have the basics (a bike or a pair of shoes), it’s free to do and can be an easy way to build more daily physical activity in to our busy lives.

Healthy body, healthy mind

So whether it’s for leisure or transport, or both, making cycling or walking a part of your daily life is a sure fire way to ensure you keep health and happy.  

And the good news is we have plenty of handy tips on to help you on your way.

Be inspired to make your journeys active and healthy

Find out more about the health benefits of cycling and walking