Cyclists suffer fewer mental health problems than non-cyclists, study finds

Cyclists experienced fewer mental health problems, second only after those who play team sports

Cyclists experience fewer mental health problems than those who don't exercise or take part in other sports, according to a cross-sectional study that looked at 1.2 million individuals.

Researchers found that people who exercised in general suffered 43 per cent fewer days of bad mental health compared with those who did not.

Those who took part in team sports had the best mental health, with cyclists second, ahead of those who took part in aerobics and gym activities.

The research, published earlier this month, looked at adults in America.

>>> The benefits of cycling

Researchers compared the number of days of bad self-reported mental health between individuals who exercised, and those who did not - also taking into account other factors such as age, race, gender, marital status, income, self-reported physical health and more.

The study looked at the effects of exercise type, duration, frequency, and intensity.

There was a positive correlation between all those who exercised and a lower mental health burden - this ranged from an 11 to 22 per cent reduction.

Those who played team sports saw a 22 per cent reduction, whilst cyclists enjoyed a 21 per cent reduction and gym users a 20 per cent reduction.

A 45 minute duration of exercise, between three and five times a week, was associated with the lowest risk to mental health.

In their conclusions, the researchers commented: "Physical exercise was significantly and meaningfully associated with self-reported mental health burden in the past month. More exercise was not always better."

>>> Strava and other technologies could be fuelling exercise addiction in cyclists

"Specific types, durations, and frequencies of exercise might be more effective clinical targets than others for reducing mental health burden, and merit interventional study."

The data was compiled from the 2011, 2013 and 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System survey.

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan
Michelle Arthurs-Brennan

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor, and is responsible for managing the tech news and reviews both on the website and in Cycling Weekly magazine.

A traditional journalist by trade, Arthurs-Brennan began her career working for a local newspaper, before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining writing and her love of bicycles first at Total Women's Cycling and then Cycling Weekly. 

When not typing up reviews, news, and interviews Arthurs-Brennan is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 190rt.

She rides bikes of all kinds, but favourites include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6. 

Height: 166cm

Weight: 56kg

Personal website

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan on Instagram

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan on Twitter

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan on LinkedIn