Cyclo-therapy: 'Even if it’s quackery, I can confirm that pedalling has the power to tackle the stresses of modern life

A A A

My expanding waistline following a period of relative inactivity demonstrates the benefits of cycling to the body. But what can the sport offer the mind? It's a question I started to consider during a recent ride through Kent and Sussex. There was a moment as I found a rhythm on the gentle drag up into the Ashdown Forest when I realised the past few miles had been a total blank. Where had those minutes gone? What had I been thinking?

Nothing, I suppose – nothing at all. And that's weird for someone who doesn't do nothing. I'm the guy whose holidays have to be action-packed and who takes months to read a book. There are nights when my brain refuses to wind down and I can't sleep. I won't claim my thoughts are usually anything but banal but the point is: I'm incapable of emptying my mind. And yet, when I'm doing 20mph with my heart racing as fast as my wheels, I can achieve what feels close to a state of meditation.

Even when consciousness is restored, the action of turning pedals is so beautifully simple it barely involves the brain. What's left, unless you're concentrating on a lorry thundering by, is time in which to think, take stock and daydream. As an oft-quoted (by me at least) 1896 'New York Times' piece reads, cycling "yields a higher tone of mental exhilaration than other sports ... With the great speed there are the subtle glide and sway of skating, something of the yacht's rocking, a touch of the equestrian bounce, and a suggestion of flying. The effect of all this upon the mind is as wholesomely stimulating as is the exercise to the body."

Scientists have long tried to establish whether meditation can improve one's health. Some experts have observed increased activity in the area of the brain linked to happiness and enthusiasm. Even if it's quackery, I will confirm that pedalling has the power to tackle the stresses of modern life. After all, "Melancholy," the writer James E Starrs has said, "is incompatible with bicycling." And as for the sport's power to stimulate thought, take this quote often attributed to the cycling physicist Albert Einstein. Of his Theory of Relativity he is supposed to have said: "I thought of it while riding my bicycle."

s.usborne@independent.co.uk or see independent.co.uk/cyclotherapy

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Arts and Entertainment
Stanley Tucci as DCI Eugene Morton, Sophie Grabol as Hildur Odegard and Christopher Eccleston as Professor Charlie Stoddart in 'Fortitude'
tvGrace Dent: Still, it's compelling and cinematically sublime
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

Arts and Entertainment
EastEnders actor Danny Dyer has been rejected from Game of Thrones three times
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Entry Administrator

£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

£36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

£29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee