Friday, 11 January 2013

Riding a bike is sexy!

Photo Credit: Victoria Furuya
Last night, my husband was able to attend a lecture by Jeffrey Tumlin titled "Sex, Neuroscience and Walkable Urbanism". It sounds like it was a stimulating lecture focusing on the benefits of creating a more walkable community, and I'm sorry to have missed it. My husband got a lot out of the lecture, but one thing he passed on to me was regarding the emotional factors of driving versus walking/biking. In his review of the evening, Andreas Lindinger summarizes that:

"short periods of outdoor exercise also result in more self esteem, better mood and a particular self esteem improvement in young and mentally ill people. According to recent research, the peptide Oxytocin – which is released with outdoor exercise (as well as breast feeding and orgasms) – lowers blood pressure and other stress-related responses, increases positive social behaviour (such as friendliness) and creates trust, generosity and empathy." (Source here)

Much of the focus on creating walkable communities is on the environmental factors; reduced car trips which equates to less co2 emissions and better air quality. So to look at reducing car trips and increasing the ability to walk or bike safely and pleasurably as a means to better our mental health and social interactions is very intriguing. After all, isn't that what we're all after as human beings? To be able to feel good about ourselves and have meaningful interactions with the people around us?

Jeff also spoke about road rage, and how it is a medically recognized condition. We, as human beings, have been trained through evolution to look for visual cues, through eye contact and facial/body language while interacting with other people. Driving in a large metal box at fast speeds eliminates the ability to do read these cues, thus road rage is the human reaction to expressing our frustrations with not being able to anticipate the reactions of fellow motorists.

"While driving makes us fat, sick, die early, poor, dumb, angry and mistrustful, walking makes us fitter, smarter, able to handle complex reasoning, sexier, more loving and more trustful."

Think about it. How do you feel after a day at the beach, playing outside with friends, or even just taking a walk to the store? Speaking from my own experiences, I tend to feel energized when I've spent time outdoors, whether walking or on my bike. I feel optimistic, creative, and have been known to come up with some of my best ideas or plans while walking in my neighbourhood. In the summer, don't we all feel a little sexier after spending time in the sunshine. Sure, the fact that summer usually means less clothing helps, but I can recall my days of commuting by car in the summer and feeling lethargic, uninspired and less willing to get out.

So while I did not attend the lecture, I have my own bit of take away insight. I know that by walking and biking as my means of transportation, I am not only benefiting my physical health but also my mental well-being. It may be winter, and cold and wet, but getting out every day using my own two feet is the best way to get past the winter blahs and feel happy, smarter, and maybe just a little bit sexy!

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