Get two wheels beneath you and get your feet a' pedalin'. For reals.
My eldest sister once reflected to me that everyone smiles when they get on a bike, and, having immersed myself in mountain bike culture for the past year, I have to say that anecdotal wisdom seems true. Eight hours of blearily squinting into harsh white screen glare with hunched shoulders and a numb posterior does not benefit my health. The hours in meetings, writing, reviewing data, and discussing projects are well spent but can leave my brain swirling with the very long list of growing to-do's that hurtles at my psyche like a train bearing down on a cow on the tracks. Moo.
In my past life, my farming life, I recognized the catharsis of retreating to the outdoors and losing myself in manual labor, milking cows, tossing bales, or cleaning mangers, to refresh my body and mind - but hay bales are harder to find in a concrete jungle. To what should I turn when weighted down by stress and exhausted by inactivity? The answer, I've found, is going for a bike ride.
You could argue that the same could be said for any type of activity, going for a walk, going to the gym, dancing, etc. and I think you'd be partially right. Everyone is different and everyone has their own motivations but I wanted to share a little of my own mad-thinking that brought me to my conclusion that biking is best. I have found that gyms make me grumble from the cost, going for a walk sometimes feels "too easy" (read: not enough sweatin' time), and I struggle getting motivated to work out at home because I don't actually have to go anywhere and the couch becomes a vortex when I step within five feet (seriously, beware my comfortable couch).
Biking, however, rolls a lot of what we know about reducing stress into one fun-filled activity. First, if you go fast enough, you'll sweat - and sweating from physical exertion is good for your stress levels. Second, it's an activity done out-of-doors, and scientists have indicated there are benefits to our brains by just being outside. Finally, it can be done by many folks at all skill-levels. In fact, there are so many "types" of bike riding it's boggling. Mountain biking, cyclocross, road biking, touring, cruising, BMX, trials, recumbent, tandem, you-name-it, there is probably a biking-style out there that's sure to plaster a grin on your face and motivate you to get outside and move after a long day of sitting.
So my message is this, if it's been a minute since you last balanced yourself on two wheels and pumped those pedals, I encourage you to head out to the garage, clip on your helmet, dust off the ol' schwinn (don't forget to oil the chain!), and go for a bike ride. Oh, and, feel free to let me know if you crack a smile. ;)