Joe Tarver of Cycle for Life and Rock and Roll Cycles in Lubbock, Texas, makes therapy bikes for people with special needs. In the following article, Joe Tarver explains how bike rides can be therapeutic for people with physical and mental disabilities.
Doctors have long emphasized the importance of exercise to good mental health, and cycling is one of those exercises.
However, cycling is believed to have an even more positive effect on our minds than just keeping us healthy. Cycling is considered very beneficial as a healing aid or therapy for physical and mental trauma, says Joe Tarver of Cycle for Life.
Cycling promotes healing
Joe Tarver of Rock and Roll Cycles explains that cycling is a low-impact sport that does wonders for the body and brain, making it the perfect activity for recovery. Whether there was an injury to the body or a traumatic event that impacted mental health, bike rides can help.
This is due to the way blood circulates through the body during cycling activity. Efficient circulation encourages the body to create new capillaries, which further increases circulation.
This improved circulation was scientifically proven to reduce stress, encourage better sleep habits and relieve depression, says Cycle for Life’s Joe Tarver.
It’s all about endorphins
The link between the release of endorphins, or feel-good hormones, and exercise is well documented, but its impact cannot be overstated.
Walking and cycling are so valued in the therapy and recovery process that doctors often prescribe a bike ride in conjunction with other more traditional methods such as counseling or medication.
The release of endorphins occurs more during exercise, and especially exercise that participants find enjoyable.
Joe Tarver of Cycle for Life and Rock and Roll Cycles explains that the feeling of freedom on the bike can help practice mindfulness. When a person does their best to empty their mind of worries and concerns and instead strives to live in the immediate moment, absorbing all the sights, sounds and sensations around them.
Great for kids
Buying a child their first bike is a magical moment, but encouraging them to ride a bike can reap a whole host of positive physical and mental rewards, says Joe Tarver with Rock and Roll Cycles.
Kids learn best when they push and challenge themselves, but the combination of the excitement of cycling and the cognitive activity required can do wonderful things for their brains, reports an addiction treatment resource Return.
By using their focus and improving their confidence, kids who ride bikes find that ADHD symptoms and behavioral issues show dramatic improvement, says Joe Tarver of Cycle for Life and Rock and Roll Cycles. By overcoming the challenges of steep inclines, navigating obstacles and pushing boundaries, children can experience a tremendous sense of fulfillment.
The healing power of nature
Much of the benefits of cycling stem from where the activity takes place. That’s not to say that a spin class at a local gym or even cycling around town isn’t effective, but when you use cycling as therapy, there’s no doubt that a lot of the benefits come from of being outdoors,” says Joe Tarver. of Cycle for Life.
Psychology Today reports that nature “has a magical impact on our health” and especially on our mental well-being. Cycling in nature is known to reduce stress levels and promote well-being, even boosting the body’s immunity.
There’s a reason most recovery and wellness centers are in rural areas and out in the wilderness. This is because healing takes a head start when participants are surrounded by nature and all its effects. Peace, quiet, clean air and the “spiritual power of nature’s rhythm” are all found on outdoor bike rides, says Joe Tarver of Rock and Roll Cycles.
An activity alone or in company
The beauty of involving cycling in therapy and recovery is that it’s an activity that can be enjoyed completely alone or with friends, says Cycle for Life’s Joe Tarver.
Some people thrive on being alone and just enjoy their own company. Others do better when surrounded by friends and family. When it comes to going for a bike ride, both scenarios are beneficial.
Getting out into nature and exercising all help to release feel-good hormones and doing it alongside friends and even others who are also working on their own recovery can have great positive effects on all people involved, says Cycle for Life’s Joe Tarver.
One reason is that by setting goals with friends or family members, participants are more likely to stay motivated to achieve their success. Recovering from physical or mental trauma can be a real struggle sometimes even leaving the house, but having a cycling buddy can be a huge boost.
An inexpensive form of therapy
Joe Tarver of Cycle for Life and Rock and Roll Cycles explains that cycling could potentially be an expensive hobby for bike enthusiasts, but you don’t have to pay a fortune to benefit from this form of therapy. Checking local thrift stores, borrowing from a friend, or even finding a government program can get you a great bike to get you started, kickstarting that valuable free therapy.