I’ve got a prescription in my pocket I bet most people around here would kill for.”
I was invited to the Americade Motorcycle Rally in Lake George, NY, to present a few seminars. Everybody thought my script was for medical marijuana! And they guessed wrong!
My presentation, MotoMedicine: Riding for Medicinal Purposes explores not only how riding a motorcycle on a regular basis is fun, healthy and a social good, but how riding every day might also be used for medicinal purposes, a treatment for all types of ailments. The golden ticket in my pocket was an official doctor’s order to ride my motorcycle up to eight hours per day as needed to relieve my MS Symptoms!
For me, riding a motorcycle has become an intricate part of managing the progression, and treating the symptoms of my Multiple Sclerosis.
There are many known social benefits to riding motorcycles. They are more fuel efficient and less expensive than cars and trucks, easier to maneuver in traffic, take up less parking space, easier on the infrastructure, and motorcycles reduce traffic congestion tremendously.
Riding is also a physical, or moderately physical activity, a huge stress reducer, and loads of fun. You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to understand riding on a regular basis is good for our planet, keeps the body in shape, mind focused, and refreshes the spirit. But what if—
I have been on my million mile quest for two years, have ridden over 70,000 miles, and have come to the conclusion that the more I ride, the better I feel, and the less my Multiple Sclerosis symptoms bother me. I am in better physical shape, and emotionally and mentally healthier as well. Since 2012, I have less fatigue, my memory has improved, and I am a hell of a lot happier.
I also notice on wintery snow days or anytime I had to ride in a car for a few days in a row, my physical and mental health deteriorate and my MS symptoms seem more pronounced! I told my wife the car was making me sick!
I realized, I needed to continue riding not just because I enjoyed it and because of my million mile pledge, but because riding was keeping me healthy and happy. Riding every day was keeping my disease from progressing and was actually alleviating my symptoms. It sounded crazy, but I wondered if riding a motorcycle could really be a serious part of treating an incurable, progressive and often disabling disease? Was I alone, or could riding a motorcycle every day also benefit other diseases and illnesses as well? I started to do some research, and found there were studies that showed I was not crazy! MotoMedicine is a term I created, and it means using motorcycles as a complimentary treatment and therapy to improve one’s physical, emotional and mental health.
Riding a motorcycle is emotionally therapeutic. It is pleasurable, empowering, and inspires freedom.
Riding a motorcycle daily improves cognitive functions.
Two studies done by Prof. Ryuta Kawashima at the Department of Function of the Brain Imaging at Tohoku University in Japan found that the intense concentration necessary to successfully negotiate traffic and changing road conditions while balancing on two wheels has a stimulating effect on the brain, which is not stimulated by watching tv or driving in a car. Riding improves spacial reasoning as well as memory while reducing stress levels, and showed increased brain activity in the right hemisphere of the pre-frontal cortex. This is the area of our brains that handle memory, space recognition, information processing and concentration functions.
For me, improving cognitive function is huge because the parts of my brain that have been damaged from MS the most are related to cognition, memory, multitasking and thought processes.
I didn’t always have a name for it, but after returning home from a conference that cost me $1,200, my wife was explaining what mindfulness was when I suddenly interrupted her and said, “So…,What you’re saying is… mindfulness is the same as riding a motorcycle?”
I had been practicing mindfulness while riding for years!
Mindfulness is a form of meditation, a state of active, open attention on the present. When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
Studies have shown practicing mindfulness can bring a variety of physical, psychological and social benefits including increasing positive emotions and reducing stress. Mindfulness can also boost our immune systems, and may even be used as an antidepressant. Studies have found practicing mindfulness changes our brains by increasing grey matter which is linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation and empathy.
Motorcycling is an excellent way to practice mindfulness, riders are alone with their thoughts, focused, allowing the mind to be cleared of clutter; staying alert, being in the moment and experiencing the ride and the surroundings in real time.
When I ride long distances, my mind is often completely consumed with absolutely nothing at all. I am only in the present, in the ride, observing and reacting to sights, sounds and sensations, as they happen in real time.
I now know, this my friends is MotoMindfulness!
Realizing, and seeing actual studies to reinforce what I have felt for some time, I am now able to use riding to treat my disease. It took a little doctor shopping, but I am now under strict doctor’s care and orders to ride my motorcycle every day possible for my health. It is a very tough pill to swallow, but yes, I have a prescription to follow my passion and to live out a dream. My medical team believes riding is indeed beneficial in treating my disease. Now, if I could just get my health insurance to pay for the treatment, it would be a perfect world!
Check with your doctor to see if MotoMedicine might be right for what ails you.
WARNING: Medicinal use of motorcycles is addictive and riding daily may lead to serious side effects including an increase in overall better health, intelligence, peacefulness, self-worth, physical strength, lifespan; and for about half of us, riding a motorcycle daily may lead to an erection lasting more than four hours.
Off to take my meds.