People with mental ill health can find themselves juggling a complex variety of clinical interventions, or, increasingly, without any support at all. However, there is an important - but often forgotten - middle ground: non-clinical activities that can effectively complement, or even replace, medical treatment.
Community support is a vital piece of the puzzle
Bike Minded is the name of our programme of group rides that support people to improve their mental wellbeing. Each ride explores green spaces, nature reserves and pleasant cycle paths in Bristol and the surrounding areas. By getting out on bikes, riders boost their fitness and confidence – and enjoy freedom, fresh air and tranquillity in the countryside.
We spoke to Moses (name changed) - a regular attendee - about his experiences with mental illness and the positive effects of regular exercise with a supportive group:
“Being able to socialise in a group has really helped me build my confidence up - it’s something I haven’t been able to do for over two years. I always feel really good after a whole day out on my bike.”
When there is a strong focus on dealing with problems, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of laughter, fun and adventure in managing symptoms – and sometimes even the causes – of mental health issues:
“Being outside, having exercise, and being around people is really beneficial to my mental, emotional and physical health. The fact the rides are frequent gives me something to always look forward to and helps me stay motivated to stay well, not self-harm and stay out of hospital so I will be well enough to join the next ride”
And these are not the only benefits: for Moses, Bike Minded has helped him to connect with the outside world in a new way, and given him the confidence to take on new challenges:
“Learning new cycling routes has been invaluable - it helps me travel to places I wouldn’t normally know how to get to and find nicer routes to places I've been before. There is also always a sense of real achievement - that I've managed to get out, managed to do something positive and managed to engage with people, and have a positive and successful day”
Joining the family
Joining a new group can be a daunting experience, especially when dealing with mental health issues. At Life Cycle, we make sure that new riders have all the support they need to get involved:
We provide one-to-one cycle lessons to help build confidence; we have low-cost refurbished bikes for those without transport; and, riders can attend our Wellbeing Café to meet the group in a relaxed setting, before adding in the cycling element.
“Bike Minded has helped me to at last begin to achieve my current recovery goal which is to get out more, and find activities in the community - to engage with people, make connections and become less isolated… Bike Minded for me has been the only group that managed to help me with my mental health. I am indebted to them”
If you or someone you know would like to try a Bike Minded ride, please contact Bikeminded@lifecycleuk.org.uk or call 0117 353 4580