Cycling UK's Cycling for Health improves both physical and mental health

Jacqueline Sharp
Jacqueline Sharp cycles every week with the Cycle 4 Health project in Wakefield.
Did you know Cycling UK has lots of projects that help people discover the joys of cycling? Cycling for Health offers free cycle training at the Fieldhead Mental Health Hospital in Wakefield. Jacqueline Sharp works at the hospital and is a vital link between Cycling UK and Fieldhead’s patients. She's explains the impact the project is having.

Since May 2017, cycle training has become a popular part of patient’s recovery at the Fieldhead Mental Health Hospital and  it has also encouraged staff to cycle too. I ride alongside patients every week and I have also got back on my bike for the first time since I was a teenager! 

The main benefits

Cycle 4 Health has been an excellent opportunity for us to get out and about and to experience healthy exercise in a social group, outdoors in natural surroundings – a great boost for staff and service users together. The opportunity of being out and active away from the ward and the hospital environment is a big benefit along with the flexibility to adapt session content specifically for our needs.

It also engages people who might otherwise be spending much of their time in static leisure pursuits.

There is also an opportunity to consider cycling as a potential mode of transport, learning or developing a skill alongside other people, high quality tuition, excellent role models from enthusiastic tutors, working with other people, being in public spaces in a controlled and formal setting with expectations of behaviour, support with safety issues, using community resources, working in partnership.

The partnership with Cycling UK provides contact with instructors who are really engaged in what they do and great role models. This is really helpful in supporting social skills. The sessions enabled both staff and service users to support and encourage each other in a dynamic setting with a shared goal. This required us to work as a group, making group decisions, discussing risks, safety and other practical matters in an open, honest and focused way. Opportunity to learn or refine a practical skill – easily accessible, affordable transport can be a major barrier.

The impact on patients

Feedback highlighted that the social aspect was a major factor in the enjoyment of the sessions, both from riding with peers and also alongside staff, as we were sharing the same experience at the same level of participation, each being guided by the tutors.

In terms of the holistic view of our human being: body, mind and spirit – general conversation with participants illustrated that the cycling positively impacted on all three aspects. We consider that a successful therapeutic activity can promote change in either habit, routine, motivation, volition or practical skills and a positive change in one area can influence positive change in the other areas.

Part of the support service we offer here is to help people begin to engage or re-engage with community activities in a positive way. Being able to enjoy activities away from the hospital setting as a group of cyclists helps us to promote regular routines and habits away from this setting. It enables people to experience a break from the routines and habits we have here and experience/consider future options in a safe and graded way.

We consider that interacting positively with the environment to be an important factor for recovery and being outdoors gave us a new and dynamic environment to work with.

I'd definitely recommend regular cycling as a positive for those suffering from a mental health condition. The one difficulty we had was grading the experience for less confident riders, so we are looking at how we can improve this and investing staff time in training with the help of Cycling UK to continue developing the positive outcomes of cycling for all abilities.

For one service user this project made a big difference in maintaining engagement, when he had lost interest in other things, he still came cycling

 Jacqueline Sharp, Assistant Practitioner in Occupational Therapy 

For one service user this project made a big difference in maintaining engagement, when he had lost interest in other things, he still came cycling.  

The cycling was a group activity we were able to offer across differing mental health level’s across our site, enabling staff and patients from different wards to meet and if people changed wards they could still be involved in the cycling and continue there development across the 12 weeks.

To find out more about Cycling for Health email