Andy Coles: how cycling can have a positive impact on mental wellbeing

15 May 2018

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and as a proud partner of Mind, The Ardonagh Group is committed to creating open, inclusive and supportive cultures across all our businesses when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.

Earlier in the year, we asked employees to write about their experiences with mental health to kickstart our conversations across the Group. Andy Coles, Business Director for Direct Group’s Lutine Assurance business, wrote about his personal experience with the well-documented link between an active lifestyle and strong mental health.

This year Andy, together with a team of four fellow Lutine and Direct Group employees, will support Mind by taking on a cycling challenge from Paris to London in under 24 hours. Read his blog below and find out more about the team’s ride at http://www.lutineride4life.co.uk/

 “I’ve always lead a pretty active life, generally in team sports, and so many years ago when I hit what I then believed to be the scrap heap that was 30, I signed up with the local athletics club and like Forest Gump just keep running away from it…Thankyou Poole AC.  

The Millennium Marathon then came and went, by which time, I had moved away from living by the seaside to build a new start business in London. Initial runs in Hyde Park became less frequent and eventually faded away; exercise all but stopped and smoking re-started. Whilst the business was flying, my general health was rapidly losing out.  

Then a good friend was suddenly diagnosed with cancer in his tongue which involved some fairly immediate and intricate surgery, followed by a lengthy period of recovery. A pretty tough time for him, but a time in which we decided to throw our legs over a bike on the challenge of riding coast to coast to raise funds for his own sister an MS sufferer. Screw the cancer…

Now at the risk of becoming a cycling bore, the challenge was hugely positive influence in that rehabilitation got local support and we soon had a group joining us on our trip to the Lake District.

A group which still rides out most weekends throughout the year weather permitting. A group that helped that friend through the worst of times and out the other side. A group that lost the weight of several small children in the process.

There are volumes written linking the benefits of cycling with mental health and great stories. Below are just four benefits which can have a positive impact on mental wellbeing:

Calmer thinking - Some of my best ‘thinking time’ is done when I’m out riding. I find weekend rides the perfect time to reflect, clear my mind and plan the week ahead, with perhaps with a little coffee and cake en route.

Combats depression - Exercise which you enjoy boosts your mood, and can ease the symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Regular exercise (three or more times per week) is also widely thought to reduce the risk of becoming depressed. 

Reduces stress - Aerobic exercise can reduce your levels of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’. Any cyclist will recognise the reduction in tension that a bike ride brings, and how well they sleep after a good ride out.

Increases self-esteem - Exercise can make you feel more positive. As well as watching yourself becoming fitter and physically stronger, the camaraderie of riding in a regular group pushing new challenges that outside your normal comfort zone is a real benefit.”