MAMILs, or middle-aged men in Lycra to give them their full name, take a lot of undeserved flak. Their love of cycling and all the tight, tight clothes that come with it is often chalked up to a mid-life crisis. Where in the past they might have turned to golf or a fancy car, they now opt for elite-standard road bikes and gear.
However, according to a new study published in the journal Qualitative Research In Sport, Exercise And Health, there are three main reasons why MAMILs turn to cycling, and none of them are the nut-huggingly tight clothing or fearing the reaper (don’t fear the reaper).
The study was undertaken by James Beale and Oliver Glacken from the University of East London, who summarised their findings on The Conversation. Glacken and Beale spoke to 11 men aged 34-52 who all had a minimum of two years’ experience cycling for an hour a week in the countryside.
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Glacken and Beale identified three reasons why these men enjoyed this so-called green-cycling, the first being “mastery and uncomplicated joys”. Successfully completing challenges, like cycling long distances or conquering tough climbs, was one of the main ways the men explained their enjoyment of the sport, and the feelings of achievement encouraged them to seek out new ways to test themselves. This is coupled with the excitement of riding down a steep hill at high speed (we can all appreciate that one).
The second reason was labelled “my place to escape and rejuvenate”. Cycling out into the countryside is a restorative process where the men could forget their everyday worries. This results in a feeling of calm similar, the authors suggested, to the one you might achieve by practising mindfulness.
Glacken and Beale identified the third reason the men enjoyed cycling as “alone but connected” in that they could ride in a group with others but feel no pressure to interact if they didn’t want to.
Furthermore, they could even ride completely alone to enjoy the feeling of escape and still enjoy a sense of camaraderie by sharing their cycles on social media – all the riders in the study used GPS-mapping devices.
All in all, the study suggests we could all learn something from MAMILs. Making time to cycle in the countryside, or whatever outdoor pursuit floats your boat, could well result in benefits for both your physical and your mental health.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.