How do you feel while you’re riding your motorcycle? That sense of freedom and exhilaration you get on the road might even come with an afterglow once you’re off your bike, too.
If you’re one of the millions of motorcycle riders who find this phenomenon to be true, now there’s some actual science to back it all up. A study published in Brain Research finds that riding a motorcycle decreases stress and improves your mental focus (for a less jargon-y story on the research, try here). Let’s take a look at the study.
Researchers signed up 23 women and 51 men aged 28 – 56 who were in basic good health and comfortable riding a motorcycle. They were screened for pre-existing conditions and medications that might affect results.
Participants had their brain activity recorded before, during and after riding a motorcycle. This was made possible for the first time ever by new EEG (short for “electroencephalogram”, a device that tracks brain waves) technology that makes monitoring devices smaller and more portable.
These same participants underwent EEG monitoring before, during and after other activities as well, like driving a car and being at rest. These gave researchers data from differing activities to compare and measure against.
As for the motorcycle ride itself, it was a 22-minute route completed under normal conditions.
It’s not that scientists discovered what we’ve known all along (that motorcycle riding makes you feel good). It’s the degree to which they were able to prove this happens. Let’s take a look at three important findings:
Stress — You know how a bike ride can help you shake off the day or free your mind from worries? That’s apparently because, according to this research, riding a motorcycle reduces stress hormones by 25%. That’s a quarter off your stress level, just by riding your motorcycle.
Focus — Ever take a ride to “clear your head”? Well, congratulations, you’ve just taken a scientific approach to solving your problems. In this research, riding a motorcycle gave participants the same level of mental focus as a person who is experienced in meditation. You’re basically a Zen monk on two wheels.
Alertness — Clearly, you’ve got your head on a swivel when you ride. But there’s a sort of feedback loop that happens on a motorcycle when you’re riding with intention. You approach the activity with alertness, but over the course of your ride, the very act of riding enhances your alertness, too. These researchers likened the level of alertness you gain from riding a motorcycle to drinking a cup of stiff coffee. Better yet, motorcycle riding won’t give you the jitters.
So there it is: Science has spoken. Riding your motorcycle lowers your stress, increases your focus and helps you gain additional alertness. But let’s not forget the one thing we don’t need a bunch of researchers to tell us: at its core, motorcycle riding is the most exhilarating fun you can find anywhere. And every time you ride, it gives you more data to back that up.
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