There Is a Reason to My Bike Commute Madness

Cross-posted from my GCimages blog.

Everyone (should) knows that exercise is good for you. Not just the obvious physical benefits wherein you lose your flabs and fats and start looking a lot better than your sedentary self, but exercise is also good for your brain.

I knew there was a reason why I started commuting by bike regularly…

Researchers from the University of Illinois found that people think and learn better when we exercise, whether it be a walk, a jog, or just something that gets the body moving. Though why this happens isn’t quite clear.

But Fast Company has some ideas.

When we get our bodies moving, our blood pressure and blood flow shoot up, Justin Rhodes, an assistant professor of psychology at the university wrote in Scientific American. And blood carries oxygen, which is what our brains want, meaning the more we exercise, the more oxygen is carried to our special organs to help optimize performance—including thinking and learning.

Which brings us to the hippocampus, which is mainly responsible for learning and memory functions. Apparently, exercise makes this organ excited, improving our cognitive functions.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can just go out and do one 5k run, then do nothing for six months until the next intense bout of exercise. To get the full benefit, exercising has to be a regular thing.

When I first made it my personal goal to make biking my main mode of transportation, I knew full well the multitude of benefits that awaited me. Except, until I made my commute by bike a regular thing, I never fully grasped just how biking to and from work affected my mental state.

I can feel the physical benefits of biking everyday to work. Basically, some of my flab is gone. (It’ll take more than just biking 9 and some miles every day to really make the transformation happen…)

And only this summer, when I challenged myself to ride every damn day did I notice how much better I just felt.

Was I tired? Sure, but that was more from the fact that I get up around 6 every morning to prep myself for a 30-minute bike ride on crushed gravel and slight elevation changes that are basically unnoticeable (except by your protesting legs).

But when comparing the days I bike and the days I ride the bus to work, even though I get about 30 minutes extra sleep on “bus days”, I feel more tired and sluggish. Nothing seems to get me revved up and going for the day.

On the other hand, when I bike to work, it’s in the wee hours of the morning, and I’m still fighting off the initial sleepiness, but once I get going, it’s all good. I’m feeling refreshed and rejuvenated and sweaty and chipper.

(At least until about the midday slump when everyone is just feeling blah-)

When people think about exercise, perhaps it’s time to think about it beyond just the mere physical aspects of it. It’s time to think about the other effects on our mood and productivity.

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