Mental health and cycling explored

British Land recently hosted our third Members’ event at The Paper Garden, Printworks (part of its Canada Water development). Club Peloton members participated in an interactive session which focused on our attitude to mental health in the workplace and how cycling, among other methods of self-care, can be used to reduce stress and elevate happiness.

The evening was chaired by Neil Webster, trustee of the London Cycling Campaign, with a panel consisting of Paralympian Rachel Morris MBE, cyclist and mental health project coordinator Sarah Strong, and Equipe Cycle Coaching and Development Coach for Scottish Cycling, Richard Lord.

The three panellists each shared their powerful stories about how bikes and cycling, in very different ways, have helped them. What came across strong was that cycling has been both a form of meditation and medication in helping each overcome exceptionally challenging situations, in both the personal and professional arenas. You can read more about this on Velocity Magazine’s website here.

I’d rather go for a ride

A short survey conducted in advance amongst the attendees about cycling in mental health presented some interesting results:

  • 50% have some form of mental health condition, compared to the general population average of about 25-35%
  • 60% believe that cycling to work makes them more punctual and more productive
  • 80% would rather go for a ride than attend a workshop to deal with mental health challenges
  • 100% gauge how they feel post-ride and find that exercise helps ease depression or low mood

As most of us are aware, regular cycling is hugely beneficial to our mental wellbeing as well as our physical health. One study, which questioned 1.2 million individuals, found that cyclists suffer fewer mental health problems than non-cyclists.

There was very active participation from the audience on the night, suggesting that this topic has more legs (ref Jens Voigt!) and is of interest to employees and employers alike whether they are cyclists or not.

What the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group had to say

Since the event, Neil has attended the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s session on health and cycling. Mike Brannan of Public Health England and James Woodcock of the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) presented on their research into the health benefits of walking and cycling. They conclude that:

  • People who walk or cycle have improved metabolic health and a reduced risk of premature mortality
  • Walking and cycling reduce the risk factors for a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, some cancers, and Type II diabetes
  • Walking and cycling also have positive effects on mental health and general well-being. The mental health and neurological benefits include reduced risk of dementia, improved sleep quality, and a greater sense of wellbeing
  • In environmental terms, health benefits accrue for the general population from a reduction in pollution due to car use and a decrease in road congestion
  • The evidence is that the health benefits of walking and cycling outweigh any potential health risks and harms – for example from injury or pollution.

The latter point is an interesting one as it busts the myth that cycling in cities is dangerous due to pollution. The research shows that trips of up to 90 minutes would still have a positive health impact.

Thanks to all who attended the Members’ event and to Neil for hosting. Two things are clear: cycling can only be a good thing for our minds and bodies, and we look forward to seeing how this can be further incorporated into our daily working lives.


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