Everyone knows that cycling is good for your physical health. It’s obvious really! People who exercise regularly are fitter, healthier and have greatly reduced risks of a number of major diseases including coronary heart disease and other serious health conditions.
But many people are not so aware of the benefits of exercise to mental health Life Cycle has long understood that a roll along a river on a bike, a ride through the wood or across the countryside can make you feel better, but of course we have not had any hard evidence to prove this, which is what funders always want. Back in 2010, MIND (the mental health charity) agreed to give our ideas a punt, and put some funding our way, enabling Life Cycle to set a supported cycling programme, called Bike Minded, for people experiencing mental health issues.
The aim, of course, was to boost mental well-being and help people experiencing a wide range of issues, to feel more positive about life, and more engaged with society. In addition, the funding was also granted to enable us to gather some evidence of the benefits of cycling to mental health.
Four years on, the project has surpassed our expectations. Not only do we have evidence that cycling is good for our minds, but we have also helped many many people improve and manage their mental well-being, and for some it has been life changing: 69% record significant or enormous impact on their mental wellbeing and 54% state they have visited their GP less. One participant commented:
“Bike Minded has had a massive effect on my mental well being. My therapists and care team see my taking part in the scheme as a really positive step and have commented that many of symptoms are reduced when I am regularly attending the rides.”
Others have recorded that having access to a low cost bike and groups rides has been a contributory factor in helping them to reduce their levels of medication.
At least 4 people agreed that their participation in the project helped them back into employment- some now work in the field of cycling themselves and many others have started volunteering. A recent survey showed that 40% of respondees said that the project had directly contributed to helping them secure voluntary or paid employment, either practically-through getting a bike, training or route planning sessions, or mentally- through increasing their confidence.
Furthermore the social side of the project has clearly been very important to many with 83% reporting the project having a positive effect on their social life.
As you can imagine we are really pleased that we have been able to demonstrate that riding a bike has so many benefits. It enabled us to secure further funds which means the project will now continue until 2016. So if you, or anyone you know could benefit from taking part then we’d love to hear from you.