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Riding a motorbike is good for my mental health….right?!

I hear this a lot!!! There is nothing like the feeling of riding and I totally agree. Without a doubt, it absolutely can be considered therapy! There is no denying that fact here with me. For a lot of riders, it is their outlet to manage the stress in their lives. Especially for females. Riding is the one thing they can do that’s just for them. 

Have you ever wondered if there is any research around riding and mental health?

Here is what I can tell you: In general research has shown that people who have a hobby are less likely to suffer from stress, low mood and depression. But that’s just hobbies in general. What about specifically riding a motorbike? 

The sciencey types have in fact conducted some research on people who ride, and the results are exactly what you, as a rider, probably suspected. The results demonstrated that riding a motorcycle releases adrenaline, which in turn produces the happy hormone dopamine. This directly affects your mood in a positive way. 

Another study looked at the neuro-biological effects of riding on stress hormones and found that riding leads to decreased levels of cortisol. That is, you literally reduce the stress hormone in your brain by riding. If you needed the facts to back up your next ride for reasons of stress relief, here they are. Really amazing results, and one to keep in your back pocket the next time you’re justifying that extra ride instead of doing the washing.

But I’m preaching to the converted right? If you are reading this article, then no doubt you’ve experienced the benefits. I know I have. That’s why I ride every chance I get.

But what about when you can’t ride?

Can’t ride! No way sister, I’m always going to ride. Well…..let’s stop and think about things that may happen, or have already happened, in your life that stop you from being able to ride. The obvious one for females are our normal life stages that we go through: pregnancy, adjusting to having a baby … or three, trying to juggle work and children, or work and caring for elderly parents, and everything else. It can also be through other changes such as changing jobs, losing a loved one, divorce, moving house. It’s expected that through these periods of change, we are not going to be able to ride as much as normal. But you need to be aware that this can have a massive impact on your mental health, especially if you’ve been using riding as your “go to” strategy for managing stress.

Some of the things you may expect to see during this time are:

  • Increased feelings of irritability
  • Low mood
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Increased stress
When you think about the changes that you are going through, it’s really normal to experience these symptoms. Not being able to use your normal outlet of riding can make it so much worse.

What can you do to help yourself maintain good mental health through these times?

Firstly, prioritise doing something for you. Self-care is a massive passion of mine and we absolutely must make time for this. Even when things are really busy and stressful. In fact, this is really the time you need to do it more often in order to cope with what is happening in your life.

If you are able to ride, go for a ride. Even if it is just for 30 minutes or an hour. Have you noticed that during the times when things are really tough, often your friends will ask if there is anything they can do for you? Say ‘yes, there is’ and ask them to come for a ride with you. Or ask them to watch the baby, or whatever other practical help they can provide that means you can have a spare hour to ride. Believe me, if they are a true friend, they will be willing to help, because they know how important it is to you. 

When things change in life, it is inevitable that your routine changes as well. It’s imperative that you include riding as part of your new routine. How you do this will look different for everyone, but I recommend booking in time to go for a ride at least once a week. That way everyone in your immediate circle knows that it is locked in. Now it’s possible that you’ll actually take that opportunity.

Often your friends will ask if there is anything they can do for you? Say ‘yes, there is’ and ask them to come for a ride with you.

If you absolutely can’t get out for a ride because you are recovering from a caesarean section, or another physical reason that is preventing you from getting on your bike, you need to find something else in the meantime. I love to recommend either meditation, or gentle exercise. Both of these are achievable, and they are going to give you some of the benefits you get from riding a bike. I know nothing compares, but something is better than nothing.

Here is your takeaway today: There is no doubt that riding a motorbike is good for our mental health. Anecdotally it is said by rider’s time and time again, but research absolutely supports this as well.  Get on your bike as much as you can! As I’ve discussed above, life can get in the way but it’s about how we consciously choose to manage those times to optimise our mental health. 

If you are seeking mental health support, speaking to a Psychologist can be really helpful. In Australia, mental health care plans are available through your GP (Medicare rebates available). Kim is a qualified psychologist with a passion for working with riders. Kim offers telehealth sessions to people located around Australia, as well as face to face appointments from her Gold Coast practice.

fitpsych@hotmail.com
Kim
Kim
After growing up in the country town of Warwick, plus a few more "way out west" towns during her 20’s, Kim became a country girl at heart. Her love of bikes started early riding dirt bikes around country properties. Today she loves to go exploring on her road bike, but it's her crazy love of F1 side-car racing that keeps her adrenaline flowing. It comes from her "give anything a try once" attitude. Which also led her to compete at National and State levels in Olympic Weightlifting. But as if that wasn't enough, Kim can add competitor on the first season of Australian Ninja Warrior to her impressive list of achievements. By day, Kim is a psychologist, passionate about working with riders on issues impacting their performance. Kim is proud to be Girl Moto's resident psych, contributing regularly to content related to all the mental stuff!
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