Could Cycling Solve COVID's Mental Health Crisis?

Since COVID hit in early 2020, people all over the world have been struggling with their mental health. Some suggest that cycling could be the key to addressing this. But why? 

By June last year, the number of people reporting symptoms of depression in the UK had become almost double that of the year before and a study by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health observed depression among 26% of the population in Europe.

Added to this, mental illness mitigation has become more complex. The WHO reports that in 93% of countries worldwide, mental health services have been disrupted or halted.

This mental health crisis, which reaches around the world, has been linked to bereavement, loss of income and fear, as well as the sheer loneliness that lockdowns and social distancing brings.

Depression and Anxiety During COVID Pandemic

The COVID Bike Boom

At the same time, there has been a massive boom in cycling since the pandemic hit. In the UK alone, bicycle sales were up by 41% in January from the year before.

Stock is being snapped up immediately, regardless of high or low seasons, which is leading to serious supply issues on the bike manufacturers end. (Believe us, we know! We’ll be telling you all about it over the following months!)

This boom is largely fueled by the need for “safe mobility” where travelers can socially distance effectively rather than sitting on crowded buses or trains. Public transport just isn’t practical at this time. The Toronto Transit Commission, for example, found that even if it took on only 30% of its full capacity, passengers would still be too close together to be COVID-safe.

So public transport is out, and even if people switched to driving their own cars, public infrastructure would not be able to deal with the traffic that would eventuate.

As a result, more and more people are turning to two wheel transport - an affordable and practical alternative. Cities have even begun to adjust to the bicycle boom, it is that significant! Look at London, Paris and New York for example, where urban planners have jumped on the chance to encourage “active transport”, and reduce congestion and pollution.

E-bikes have been particularly popular. In fact e-bikes alone have seen a significant rise in sales in the past year and Forbes reports a prediction of continued sales growth from 3.7 Million to 17 Million per year by 2030.

This has been tied to the versatility and utility of e-bikes when compared to regular push-bikes - you can use them for commuting and daily chores where you want to be able to go further and carry more without being as tired, and you can also use them for fitness and recreation.

This is something that sits at the core of what we do at MODMO. Everything about the Saigon is utility and performance-focussed to bring you the most malleable, car-replacing (and damn sexy) vehicle as possible.

MODMO Saigon S

Better Than Therapy?

So how does the cycling boom link to mental health? The benefits of cycling to mental wellness have been well documented, and people the world over have been finding that taking up cycling as their main form of exercise has done wonders for their overall wellbeing during the pandemic.

In fact one 2020 survey by BikeRadar and CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) quantified this, finding that 87% of cyclists surveyed had used cycling as a tool for mental health during the pandemic.

The Happy Chemicals

For one, cycling can lower your stress and anxiety levels by reducing cortisol levels and releasing endorphins - your body’s natural painkiller - into your brain. Not to mention dopamine and seratonin! The reduction in cortisol also helps with more stable sleep patterns, which has a profound impact on your mood.

Healthy Body Healthy Mind

Physical fitness has a strong bearing on your mental wellness - the healthier your body is, the less stress or other linked mental issues you will experience - and cycling is a great way to stay fit. One study in Finland found that those who cycled for over 30mins a day had a 40% lower risk of developing diabetes. Other research links regular physical activity such as the full-body workout you get with cycling to reductions in colon and breast cancer. And there is much more!

Staying Social

Cycling gives you the chance to get outside and be social, even if it’s only a socially distanced wave to your neighbours as you pass on the street. This kind of positive human contact can lift your mood and help you feel less isolated.

Keeping You Sharp

Cycling and other aerobic exercises can also prevent cognitive decline by counteracting the natural degradation of the hippocampus - the system of the brain responsible for long-term memory. For those still getting to work during the pandemic, studies show that employees who cycle to work have higher energy levels and concentration power, and are more productive.

Staying Social

Why are E-bikes Even Better?

E-bikes in particular are a great option as they suit a wider range of fitness levels and can typically enable you to go further than a regular push-bike would. The typical e-bike does actually provide the chance to exercise, but you control how much exertion you want for your ride by adjusting the assistance power of your bike as you go.

This is where we come in. Our bikes have 5 power assistance levels plus the Enviolo planetary geared system and you can even ride it without the battery if you’re looking for more of a workout. You get the same physical and mental health benefits, but it’s all on your terms.

The Saigon is built both for the urban jungle and for taking on road-trip adventures, even if that adventure has to stay within a COVID-safe 5km from your home. We want you to be able to use it every day whether you’re popping down to the shops or heading out for a head-clearing adventure.

You can find out more about the modular mobility of our bikes here and visit the Saigon+ and Saigon S product pages for more about the bikes themselves.

Has cycling helped with your mental health? Send us a dm on Facebook or Instagram or email us at hello@modmo.io