It’s nearly time to tune up the bikes, hit the trails or pathways and enjoy all the season has to offer. And whether you are cycling on your own steam or with a little help from an electric motor, studies have found that the joy of getting on a bike can have a positive cognitive and psychological impact on the health and well-being of older adults.
According to a new study, published February 20, 2019, in the journal Plos One, not only does regular cycling get the blood pumping which improves physical function and cognition, the joy, independence and freedom of cycling boosts mood. Whether the outdoor activity of bicycling brings back fond memories of youth or increases opportunities to spend time in nature, getting back in the saddle can be an excellent way for older adults to stay physically fit with low impact to joints.
Researchers tracked a total of 100 older adults between the ages of 50 and 83 during an 8-week period. The participants were broken into a non-cycling group, conventional cyclists and those using an e-bike; cyclists were required to bike for a minimum of 30 minutes, three times a week. Cognitive function and well-being were measured before and after the test period and both the e-bike group and the conventional group improved their mental health scores compared with non-cyclists.
The results of the study demonstrated that not just physical activity but other factors such as increased mobility, reduced isolation, engaging in an outdoor environment or increased oxygen intake could all contribute to improved mental health and cognition. Seniors who might otherwise avoid cycling, fearing them might not have the stamina to make the return trip, can feel empowered on an e-bike to start cycling again.
Sometimes all we need to start feeling less isolated or depressed is a change of scenery and some fresh air. It might seem like a simple idea but older adults can easily become stuck in a rut or fearful about their declining physical abilities, causing them to become more sedentary and less adventurous. By looking at ways to safely encourage seniors to participate in outdoor physical activity, older adults can improve their health, function and emotional well-being.
To learn more about the e-bike study, follow this link to the Plos One website.