The mental health benefits of riding a motorcycle – the ultimate guide.

There are a number proven, mental heath benefits to riding a motorcycle, including a more positive outlook on life and improved cognitive function.

Motorcycling is so popular for range of reasons, but what great news it is to learn there so many proven, mental health benefits! Some benefits are obvious while others are more subtle. The psychological benefits of motorbike riding have been been studied researched, with some amazingly positive results.

The number one mental health benefit of riding a motorcycle – a positive outlook on the world.

1. Positive Outlook
There is actually a scientific reason that motorcyclists feel addicted to riding. Why does motorcycling bring happiness, peacefulness, and put us in a better mood?

Dopamine is a so-called messenger substance or neurotransmitter that conveys signals between neurons. It not only controls mental and emotional responses but also motor reactions. Dopamine is particularly known as being the “happy hormone.” It is responsible for our experiencing happiness. Every twist of the wrist releases adrenaline which, in turn, releases endorphins. The fresh air and the sense of freedom, releases dopamine; these ‘feel good’ hormones improve our mood, increase pleasure and minimize pain.

When you are riding , your mind is fully engaged, which is kind of like a mediation! Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.

This state of focus we enjoy when riding, is drawing your mind into a naturally meditative state. The clarity of focus required to ride, where you enjoy the ‘little things’ on your journey (the smell of freshly cut grass) all naturally lead to you practice a mindfulness as second nature.

This is why your mind feels refreshed and ‘ironed out’ when you throw your leg off after a long ride.

Along side this, to help you understand some this (especially if you’re not a motorcyclist) I encourage you to read our post on what does a it feel like to ride a motorcycle.

The second mental benefit of riding a motorcycle – improve cognitive function!

2. Cognitive Function

Riding a motorbike every day can make you smarter and prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, says Dr Ryuta Kawashima, author of the Nintendo game “Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training”.

The 57-year-old self-professed motorcycle fan conducted a study in 2009 at the University of Tokyo that found riders aged 40-50 had improved levels of cognitive function after riding their bikes daily to work for just two months.

The 2009 study by Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, looked at the relationship between motorcycle riding and the human mind and focused on riders with an average age of 45 some of whom were regular riders and others who had not ridden in 10 years.

The study asked participants to ride on courses in different conditions while he recorded their brain activities.

He found that current riders and former riders used their brains in different ways, and the current riders had a higher level of concentration because specific segments of their brains (the right hemisphere of the prefrontal lobe) was activated.

He also tested how making a habit of riding affects the brain. The test subjects had not ridden for 10 years or more. Over the course of a couple of months, those riders used a motorcycle for their daily commute and in other everyday situations.

The result? The use of motorcycles in everyday life improved cognitive faculties, particularly those that relate to memory and spatial reasoning capacity. An added benefit, according to the study? Participants said their stress levels had been reduced and their mental state changed for the better.

So why motorcycles? Shouldn’t driving a car should have the same effect as riding a motorcycle?

“There were many studies done on driving cars in the past,” Kawashima said. “A car is a comfortable machine which does not activate our brains. It only happens when going across a railway crossing or when a person jumps in front of us. By using motorcycles more in our life, we can have positive effects on our brains and minds.”

Another a scientific study, conducted by Ryuta Kawashima, who partnered with Yamaha Japan and Tohoku University, is referenced below. He notes that motorcycle requires a high level of alertness and rapid problem-solving. According to Kawashima, “the driver’s brain gets activated by riding motorbikes.”

The below is an extract from the findings of the study in partnership with Yamaha.

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. has been involved in joint research on the relationship between motorcycle riding and brain stimulation with Ryuta Kawashima Laboratory of the Department of Functional Brain Imaging, Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer at Tohoku University (Address: 2-1-1 Katahira, Aoba Ward, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture) as of May 2008. We are now pleased to announce the findings of this research.

Through this research, the relationship between motorcycle riding and brain stimulation has been verified as follows:
1)When riding a motorcycle, the brain of the rider is stimulated.
2)Differences in brain use and level of brain stimulation can be observed in motorcyclists who ride regularly and in motorcyclists who have not ridden for extended periods (at least 10 years).
3)Incorporating motorcycle riding into daily life improves various cognitive functions (particularly prefrontal cortex functions) and has positive effects on mental and emotional health such as stress reduction.

Sources include