Six Ways to Cycle Toward Happiness

It can put you in a great mood.

After an indoor cycling workout, you’ll be riding high on endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, which can trigger a sense of euphoria and enhanced well-being. (They’re the same substances behind the famous runner’s high.) In fact, a 2013 study from Stanford University found that cycling for just 15 minutes on a stationary bike leads to increased levels of high-arousal positive affect—feeling excited, happy, and proud, in other words. Woo-hoo!

It can knock out your anxiety.

Even a single session can relieve anxiety. A 2011 study from Belgium found that a 20-minute session on a stationary bike decreased anxiety and psychological stress and improved feelings of well-being among participants. A 2009 study from Belgium found that after a 20-minute cycling session, patients with depressive and/or anxiety disorders experienced a significant drop in anxiety; those who selected their own cycling intensity gained an enhanced sense of positive well-being, too. 

It can crank up your self-confidence and your self-esteem.

When you push through the challenges that come with any moderately vigorous indoor cycling experience, you'll come out of the experience feeling stronger, more empowered, maybe even like a bit of a bad-ass. (And that's a good thing!) The psychological boost you get from these effects and the surge of feel-good endorphins can inspire you to take smart chances or expand your comfort zone in various sectors of your life. And the more you can cultivate a can-do spirit, the greater your energy is likely to be during any given cycling session and the more revitalized and positively engaged you’ll feel afterward, according to research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

It can enhance your body image.

When you discover how strong and capable your body is with regular indoor cycling, you’ll likely become less critical and more appreciative of your physique, which can help you feel better in your own skin. Research from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Canada found that obese teenagers who participated in indoor cycling sessions twice a week experienced significant improvements in their body image after 10 weeks. Feeling strong and feeling proud of what your body can do trumps objectifying and bashing your body any day of the week. 

It can relieve your stress and help you feel resilient.

Ramping up your heart rate and getting your sweat on with indoor cycling can help you find and use your body’s decompression valve. In a 2014 study involving 84 adults, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, found that people who participated in cycling classes for 12 weeks, as part of a worksite stress management program, experienced a significant reduction in their perceived stress levels. While there isn’t a conclusive explanation for how and why cycling helps in this respect, one leading theory is that regular exercise training promotes enduring resilience to psychological stress.

It can help you make your career more brilliant than ever.

With indoor cycling, your brainpower gets a workout, along with your body. Besides enhancing blood flow to the brain and stimulating the release of powerful brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that enhance learning and other cognitive functions, indoor cycling can lead to greater productivity and efficiency at mental tasks, more focused attention, and better short-term memory. All of these factors can add up to a considerable boost in your job performance. This is another great reason to take an early morning or lunchtime indoor cycling class! 

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