We’ve all felt it before: this uncontrollable need to smile, breathing in the air of freedom, feeling the interior peace and weightlessness that comes with being on the road and sharing a moment alone with yourself to the sound of a mix of exhaust note and wind. This might all sound a little sappy and over-poeticized, but you know exactly the feeling I’m describing and als know that very little can compare. Apparently, it’s not just a “feeling”—riding actually is good for us.
It would make perfect sense for Harley-Davidson to fund a research about the physical benefits of riding considering the brand's notoriety for making ride-friendly bikes, right? Well, that’s exactly what the Milwaukee company has done. In collaboration with the UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, a study among over 50 experienced riders was conducted to determine the effects of a motorcycle ride on the brain.
All the riders studied were hooked up to a mobile electroencephalogram (EEG), a sort of shower cap-like device covered in electrodes that detect the brain’s electrical activity. They were then set loose on their bikes. The subjects’ brain activity and hormones were also monitored before the ride, while they were driving a car, and while they were resting in order to establish comparables.
What the researchers observed is that the ride decreased the participants’ level of stress (28-percent decrease in stress biomarkers), that it slightly increased their heartbeat (a 20-minute ride increased heartbeat by 11 percent), their adrenaline levels (by 27-percent) as well as their focus and alertness.
This means the next time you are sitting at your computer feeling sluggish or that you get home after a long a stressful day, the answer to getting back on track or relieving some of the tension could be as simple as going out for a ride. You know, in case you needed another good reason to throw on your jacket and helmet and head out. Now go out and ride, doctor’s order.
RIDING A MOTORCYCLE IMPROVED METRICS OF FOCUS AND DECREASED STRESS BIOMARKERS, ACCORDING TO A NEW NEUROBIOLOGICAL STUDY
Motorcycling Decreased Stress-Measures, Similar to Light Exercise
MILWAUKEE (January 17, 2019) – Motorcyclists have long championed riding as their main road to stress relief and positive mental health. Today, the results of a neurobiological study conducted by a team of three researchers from UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior yielded pioneering scientific evidence revealing the potential mental and physical benefits of riding. Funded by Harley-Davidson, the study found that motorcycling increased metrics of focus and attention, and decreased relative levels of cortisol, a hormonal marker of stress.
Researchers recorded participants’ brain activity and hormone levels before, during, and after motorcycling, driving a car, and resting. While riding a motorcycle, participants experienced increased sensory focus and resilience to distraction. Riding also produced an increase in adrenaline levels and heart rate, as well as a decrease in cortisol metrics – results often associated with light exercise and stress-reduction.
“Stress levels, especially among young adults, continue to rise, and people are exploring pathways to better their mental and physical health. Until recently, the technology to rigorously measure the impact of activities like motorcycling on the brain didn’t exist,” said Dr. Don Vaughn, the neuroscientist who led the research team. “The brain is an amazingly complex organ and it’s fascinating to rigorously investigate the physical and mental effects riders report.”
●Riding a motorcycle decreased hormonal biomarkers of stress by 28%
●On average, riding a motorcycle for 20 minutes increased participants’ heart rates by 11 percent and adrenaline levels by 27 percent—similar to light exercise
●Sensory focus was enhanced while riding a motorcycle versus driving a car, an effect also observed in experienced meditators vs non-meditators
●Changes in study participants’ brain activity while riding suggested an increase in alertness similar to drinking a cup of coffee
“While scientists have long-studied the relationship of brain and hormone responses to attention and stress, doing so in real-life conditions such as these is rare,” explained UCLA Professor and senior team member, Dr. Mark Cohen. “No lab experiment can duplicate the feelings that a motorcyclist would have on the open road.”
“The differences in participants’ neurological and physiological responses between riding and other measured activities were quite pronounced,” continued Dr. Vaughn. “This could be significant for mitigating everyday stresses.”
The research team monitored participants’ electrical brain activity and heart rate, as well as levels of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. To be presented later this year, the Harley-Davidson funded study, entitled “The mental and physical effects of riding a motorcycle” measured the biological and physiological responses of more than 50 experienced motorcyclists, using mobile EEG technology.
“We’re leveraging the latest technologies as we shift our focus from exclusively motorcycles to growing ridership, so it only made sense to tap technology to explore the impact of riding itself,” said Heather Malenshek, Harley-Davidson’s Senior Vice President of Marketing & Brand. “The research findings Dr. Vaughn and his team identified helps explain what our riders have felt for the past 116 years – there’s a vitality and heightened sensory experience that comes from the freedom of riding a motorcycle. We hope their findings inspire the next generation of riders to experience these benefits along with us.”
The Ultimate New Year’s Resolution: Learning to Ride
For those who wish to experience the heightened sensory experience of riding first-hand, H-D Riding Academy will introduce you to motorcycle riding and build your skills in just a few days, regardless of experience level. Offered at select Harley-Davidson dealers, H-D Riding Academy provides expert guidance from Harley-Davidson certified coaches. In the classroom, you get to know basic motorcycle functions and learn the basics of rider safety skills. On the practice range, you build skills and confidence, learning everything from braking, turning and skilled maneuvers. Best of all, you will be connected to a growing community of new riders. To find available courses near you, contact your local dealer or search for classes at www.h-d.com.
Visit H-D.com/explore for more information.
About Harley-Davidson Motor Company
Harley-Davidson, Inc. is the parent company of Harley-Davidson Motor Company and Harley-Davidson Financial Services. Since 1903, Harley-Davidson Motor Company has fulfilled dreams of personal freedom with custom, cruiser and touring motorcycles, riding experiences and events and a complete line of Harley-Davidson motorcycle parts, accessories, general merchandise, riding gear and apparel. Harley-Davidson Financial Services provides wholesale and retail financing, insurance, extended service and other protection plans and credit card programs to Harley-Davidson dealers and riders in the U.S., Canada and other select international markets. For more information, visit Harley-Davidson's Web site at www.harley-davidson.com.
Study of healthy, experienced adults, riding their own motorcycles on a designated 22-minute route, under normal conditions. Provided for informational purposes only. Sponsor makes no guarantee that you will experience similar results; actual effects will vary based on equipment, driving conditions and age/health/experience of rider. See research summary here. Views expressed and conclusions reached are solely those of the author, Dr. Don Vaughn, in his personal capacity, and do not necessarily represent the views of UCLA. Sponsor: Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Copyright 2019, all rights reserved. Please contact Sponsor for permission to use or republish any study data.
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