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The advantages of cycling for outcomes related to wellbeing, quality of life, and mental health

Numerous studies indicate that physical activity in general is linked to a number of favorable outcomes for mental health and wellbeing, such as better sleep, enhanced executive function and other cognitive functions, a lower chance of depression and depressive symptoms, and a higher sense of overall well-being (59, 60). On the other hand, the data regarding outdoor cycling particularly and its effects on mental health, quality of life, and wellbeing outcomes is relatively sparse. Supplementary Table S8 provides a summary of important works on this subject.

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Cross-sectional research have consistently produced evidence of a relationship between cycling and outcomes related to mental health, life quality, and wellbeing. Cross-sectional studies, for instance, have shown correlations between cycling and reduced levels of perceived stress (61, 62), increased enjoyment of commuting (63), improved overall health (64, 65), high levels of life satisfaction (66, 67), and superior levels of quality of life (68). Evidence from prospective cohort (70) and cross-sectional (69) studies has also shown that, as compared to those who travel by other means, cyclists take fewer sick days from work (by around one day annually).

Data from intervention trials are scarcer. An intervention that increased cycling for commuting resulted in better vitality at six months, but this was not sustained until one year, according to one non-randomized intervention study (55). Therefore, the evidence base for general physical activity, which suggests advantages for these outcomes, is consistent with the minimal data that is currently available for cycling and health, quality of life, and wellbeing outcomes.

Trial evidence regarding the potential benefits of cycling-related therapies on mental health, quality of life, and overall wellbeing is conspicuously lacking. There is an immediate need for randomized controlled studies to measure the impact of practical and doable cycling treatments on these outcomes. Specifically, knowing if cycling treatments might lower employee sick leave could be crucial in motivating businesses to implement policies and programs that promote active commuting. Table 2 presents an overview of current knowledge and unanswered questions about cycling and mental health, quality of life, and overall wellbeing.