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University of Reading looking into cycling effects on mental health

University of Reading looking into cycling effects on mental health
20th May 2015

The University of Reading is looking for volunteers to help them on research on effects cycling may have on mental health.

The institute is seeking people aged over 50 who cycle regularly, who will then be asked to cycle for 30 minutes, three days a week for eight weeks. They will be interviewed and will participate in cognitive tests to assess memory, thinking speed and attention, only to then take the same tests eight weeks later. As part of the scheme, volunteers will receive free cycle training and bike checks.

Speaking to Medical Xpress, Dr Carien Van Reekum from the University of Reading's Department of Psychology said: “A number of recent studies have shown that regular physical exercise is one of the key factors in maintaining, or even improving, thinking and reasoning in older age. The team is focusing on whether incorporating cycling into everyday chores, such as getting from home to work or the shops, may positively contribute to having good mental health in older age."

There has already been a first wave of volunteers, and the results have been positive. Furthermore, cycling only represents one per cent of all journeys made by people aged over 65 in the UK - this is in contrast to 23 per cent, 15 per cent and nine per cent recorded in the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany respectively.

This is the first big study of its kind since another published in Environmental Science and Technology in 2010, which found that just five minutes of exercise in an outdoor environment could significantly boost mental health. Charities have been quick to suggest that exercise in natural settings should always be an option placed over treatment and drugs for those wanting to improve their mental wellbeing.

Read about support and personalised care at Barchester care homes for anyone with mental health concerns.