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Information for Ukrainian refugees / Інформація для українських біженців (click here)

Two Wheels Good, Four Wheels Bad

Patients who attend Clermont Health might have noticed GP Dr Meave Baxter park up her road bike outside the surgery either side of the day, and you would be correct in noticing that she has impeccable road safety etiquette. However in the evenings and at weekends Meave can be found mountain biking on the Cooleys, Mournes or beyond with reckless abandon! But beyond getting to work and unwinding after, there are a raft of health benefits to getting on your bike, and in this RTE interview Dr Meave explains why;

www.rte.ie/radio/radioplayer/html5/#/radio1/21840661

Mental health is a subject that has an increasing recognition as a pillar of health, from a stigmatised taboo of our recent past. Most of us will either have experienced a mental health issue or will know someone who has, and dealing with these issues extends beyond medications and counseling. However we might not rush to consider picking up a muddy mountain bike in such a dilemma, but you might be surprised at the health benefits to be gained.

First of all, there is a plethora of evidence that tells us just how good exercise is for our body and brain. They often say that if exercise could be bottled, it would be a blockbuster for a whole manner of diseases. With respect to our mental health, exercise causes us to release our very own antidepressants called endorphins. Otherwise known as the feel-good hormones, they are responsible for lifting our mood, reducing anxiety, and giving you that hard to repress smile. At the same time our stress hormones, such as cortisol levels, tail off as fast as a mountain-biker on a downhill run.

 

DR MEAVE BAXTER

If you live in Japan and visit with your GP for a mental health issue, there is a good chance you will be referred to the nearest woodland for some forest bathing. That’s right, there is a slew of research supporting the benefits both mentally and physically in spending time in nature., particularly around trees. This isn’t as woolly as it may sound, just being around a diversity of vegetation can alter the microbes in our gut, and improving our gut health improves a whole series of body systems. Did you know that it is your gut that makes the majority of the serotonin for your body, and that most medications for mental health target this hormone? The good news is that Ireland is blessed with many excellent forests, especially in and around Dundalk. As Dr Meave recommends spending some time on the trails to help you connect with nature we just recommend you don’t connect too closely with the trees and branches overhead!

 

Occupational therapy is well known to be important for recovery in mental health, but just what is it? Well, when you are busy peddling around the mountainside your conscious brain will likely be busy avoiding branches and pot holes or planning lunch. Meanwhile your subconscious will be delighted to have some breathing space and perspective to think on and rationalise what’s been going on in your head. You might notice that after a brisk walk or gentle jog, your worries somehow feel a little more manageable and your thoughts little more ordered, well the same goes for an hour or two on your bike. Being out in the mountains can remind you how big the skies can be, how vast the countryside is, how inspiring nature is and how much there is to be grateful for. You could even argue that just by getting out on your bike and letting your mind wander is a form of active meditation. It’s the perfect way to reduce the constant noise in your mind. It’s important to give the mind a rest and not think; that way you can come back refreshed and with new clarity. There is also a growing biking community in Louth, and there are groups of riders of all ages and at all levels. From the dare devils (ahem Meave) to those who just like a gentle pedal and a laugh, there is a spot for you.

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