Alternative Medicine: Citi Bikes

You read that right. I came across a study that was being conducted in an effort to determine the benefits of bicycling on severe and persistent mental illness. Yavar Moghimi, a psychiatrist out of DC was awarded a grant, which allowed him to provide individuals with Schizophrenia and other mental illness memberships to the city’s bike share program. Over time he planned to study their symptoms to determine what the effects would be. Check out the article here !

Most major cities are implementing a bike share program. Some of these cities include Austin, Miami, New York, and Boston. These programs have been developed to cut down on mass transit, eliminate pollution, and promote physical well-being. But to help people with mental illness? Probably not the initial intention, but certainly an added benefit.

You may be asking how the heck would that work? Well the theory behind it is quite simple. There is a plethora of research that supports the concept that physical activity helps improve mental illness ranging from depression to schizophrenia. This is due to the release of endorphins as well as the improvement in physical health, including blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI, to name a few. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same access to fitness resources. Gym memberships are expensive, especially in major metropolitan areas. There is always running, but not everyone is able to handle that exercise due to it’s impact on our joints. We must also keep in mind that many fitness clubs are extremely intimidating and can exacerbate many symptoms related to mental illness.

All that being said, the city bike share may be a great resource for people with mental illness. It not only provides access to transportation, but it allows them to remain active and fit in an affordable way. In addition, riding a bike can be something they do alone or with other people. So the social component is completely controlled by the rider. I also know that riding a bike can build one’s self esteem, which is often very low in people with mental illness. In sum, there seems to be many benefits to providing people with mental illness a subscription to their city bike program.

I have struggled to locate the results of this study as it was started around 2011. It is my educated guess that the results were positive. Access to bicycles is crucial and can be way more effective than we think.

Healthy Bike Healthy Brain!

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2 Responses to Alternative Medicine: Citi Bikes

  1. yavar moghimi says:

    Hi Matthew,
    I’m the psychiatrist who was involved in this study. Our study was a pilot study that showed this type of intervention is feasible and acceptable in an urban community, mental health population. I’m currently working on expanding that study to more rigorous testing with a larger group of patients. The Capital Bikeshare program is very supportive and they’re hoping to expand this to other health centers across D.C. as well.


    • That’s really great to hear. As a clinical social worker and avid cyclist, I love to learn about interventions like the one you have been studying. I appreciate you reaching out and I look forward to seeing how this expands.


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