How motorcycling lights up your brain

You do not need a therapist if you own a motorcycle.  Paul McGeachieAny kind of motorcycle! – Dan Ackroyd

I’m not sure Dan actually penned that quote, but he gets credit for it in some circles, and besides, he was an original Ghostbuster.

The team at Motorcycles OK is all about the transportation and environmental sensibilities of motorcycles. However, we are just as passionate about the other tangible health benefits of riding. There have been an increasing number of medical professionals citing the benefits of motorcycling as a form of low-impact exercise.

This covers stronger knees and thighs, to improved core strength. Riding a motorcycle is always an engaged, visceral experience. (That’s how you survive) Naturally, the degree of physical benefit is indexed to the type and size of your motorcycle, as well as how often you ride, but the basics apply to everyone.

Off-road experts cite that exertion while off-road riding is similar to the effects of hitting the gym.  As far back as 1971 in the landmark motorcycle film, On Any Sunday, it was claimed that motocross was second only to soccer in relative exertion levels. Balancing a motorcycle is like sitting on a stability ball. Controlling the handlebars is like doing bench presses and seated rows or upright rows. Standing up and down would be like squats or deep knee bends. Standing on the pegs is like doing toe raises”. Few other activities engage all your limbs and all your senses, all at once, like motorcycling.

More importantly, there have also been serious studies on the cognitive benefits of motorcycle riding.

Scientists believe that the extra concentration needed to successfully operate a motorcycle can contribute to higher general levels of brain function, and that increase in activity is a contributing factor to the appeal of motorcycles as a mode of transportation. While the typical motorists are just transporting themselves from A to B, the motorcyclist is actually transported into an entirely different (and higher) state of consciousness.

The best-known study in this field was by Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, Department of Functional Brain Imaging, Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer at Tohoku University. You sharper types may also remember the doctor’s hugely successful “Brain Training” software, used by Nintendo.

His study looked at two groups – riders who regularly rode to work and those that did not. It found that for the regular riders, the right hemisphere of their prefrontal lobe was activated while riding, demonstrating higher levels of concentration. Then the occasional riders were tasked with riding regularly over a number of months.Dr. Kawashima

The result?

Cognitive functions for the second group, especially those relating to memory and spatial reasoning capacity, increased dramatically. Those riders also stated that their stress levels were noticeably lower and mentally they felt much more positive.

Dr. Kawashima explained these results: “There were many studies done on driving cars. 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”.

So here is the take away message from the scientific community:

Incorporating motorcycle riding into daily life improves cognitive functions (particularly prefrontal cortex functions). It has positive effects on mental and emotional health. It reduces stress, increases attention, learning, logical thinking, and working memory.

We couldn’t have said it better.


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