Text & Images by Malia k Harunaga
Feeling stressed by all the bombarding talk of the “new corona virus”? Worried that your stockpile of toilet paper won’t last you long enough? Scared each time you hear someone cough?
Go ride a bicycle.
While fear grips people’s mind hearing celebrities, national leaders, and famous sports players test positive for COVID-19, try not to go into panic mode. Having it would not be a good time, just like getting the flu is never fun, but the reality is that 93% of those that contract the virus have already recovered and are back to normal (current stats here). There are some that have contracted the corona virus and display no symptoms at all — or experience only mild cold-like symptoms that resolve on their own (source: yalemedicine.org). As you have read I’m sure many times at this point, older adults (those over 60 years of age) and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 (source: CDC).
What does this mean for you?
Go ride a bicycle!
Cycling is a great cardiovascular exercise that is not only low-impact, but can help boost your immune system! Of course that is great for everyday life, helping you ward off getting a cold or flu, but certainly essential in the time of the corona virus. “An organ called the thymus, which makes immune cells called T-cells, normally starts to shrink from the age of 20. But the thymuses of older cyclists were found to be generating as many T-cells as those of young people” (source: TheGuardian). In general, physical activity can help flush out bacteria from your lungs and airways, therefore reducing your chance of getting sick (source: cycleplan.co.uk).
Recent cycling-related studies show that just 30 minutes of biking exercise can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on your immune system (source: velosurance). Do you have half an hour to spare to get your bike out and ride? It’s well worth it. You’ll be getting out of the house, taking in the beauty of living in Hawai‘i, and doing good for not only your body but your mind as well.
Exercise can improve your well-being, self-confidence, and reduce stress and depression. “Cortisol, the hormone that is released when you become stressed, can actually suppress the effectiveness of the immune system. That means that stress has the strong potential to weaken the immune system” (source: velosurance). Biking helps reduce cortisol levels in the body and also promotes the releases endorphins to make you feel happier and less stressed. Why does this happen? “You hear more about gray matter in the brain, but white matter matters, too. White matter, found mostly beneath the brain’s surface, has been likened to a subway system connecting different regions of the brain. A breakdown in this system can slow thinking and lead to other cognitive deficits. Fortunately, there’s evidence that practicing a motor skill, such as repeatedly punching in karate, helps keep the system running smoothly” (source: Psychology Today). Repetitive motion – does that sound like a familiar physical activity? Pedaling a bicycle certainly fits that criteria.
So if biking can boost your immune system, make you feel less stressed, and combat other chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes (source: People Powered Movement), what are you waiting for? Get on your bicycle, and we’ll see you out on the road!