What do you get when you combine endorphins with dopamine? While I wish I had a comical punchline, I have an answer that provides a bit more meaning: health and happiness. The key to life, some say.
Going about boosting those “happy hormones” is easier said than done, of course, but I have at least one tried-and-true method: participating in the Great Cycle Challenge.
The Great Cycle Challenge is an annual fundraiser and cycling challenge benefiting the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending childhood cancer by funding lifesaving research, and resources and programs for kids with cancer and their families.
What’s so great about the Great Cycle Challenge is that it’s truly for everyone. Anyone can contribute – no matter where they are in the world, how often or intense their exercise sessions are, or how many people they can reach with their personal fundraisers. Even the method by which participants achieve their miles is flexible – any mode of human-powered transport qualifies, including rollerblading, wheelchairs, stationary bikes and even walking.
What I discovered through the Great Cycle Challenge when I first joined in 2015 was a supportive community with a shared purpose everyone could get behind: fighting childhood cancer. Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death globally. Chances are that you have also been personally impacted. With such an extensive pervasiveness globally, it’s important that we do all we can to fight for today’s children and for generations to come.
One of the most powerful ways we can reduce the impact of adult cancers is by preventing it in the first place.
Did you know that between 30-50% of adult cancers are preventable? By now, many are aware of the dangers of tobacco and occupational carcinogens like asbestos, but what may be understated is that physical inactivity is also linked to cancer, according to the World Health Organization. This means we can reduce our risk by simply riding our bikes to work or even walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes each day.
As if reducing our risk of cancer and making ourselves healthier physically is not reason enough to exercise, the associated mental health benefits cannot be ignored. In fact, 89% of the 1,158 studies published between 1990 and 2020 found a statistically significant and positive association between physical activity and mental health. This is how we increase our endorphins.
Calling back to our initial equation, how then do we increase our dopamine? One way is by doing good.
As my colleague Lisa Synek mentioned in a previous post, volunteerism has been dubbed the “helper’s high,” as studies have proven effects such as lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem and decreased depression. Service to others prompts the release of lots of dopamine in our brains.
So, by recording as many miles as we can throughout September, we increase our mental health, physical health and endorphins. And by doing it to benefit kids and families in need, we increase our dopamine. It’s a win-win for all involved.
If you don’t believe me, listen to my colleagues. When we ask them why they continue to participate in the Great Cycle Challenge year after year, we hear a variety of reasons. Some ride in honor of loved ones who have or had cancer, and others because they want to help prevent children and their families from having to go through such difficult circumstances. Others join to get in better shape, physically or mentally. Many of them, though, participate for all these reasons.
We’re proud to share that this year's challenge was – yet again – the most successful fundraising year to date for Team Zebra, with 251 members of Zebra Nation raising $103,619 USD (and counting) and recording 32,316 miles! We finished with the fourth highest fundraising total overall and knocked our goal ($75,000 USD) out of the park.
We are especially grateful for the Zebra PartnerConnect community. It was our first year inviting our partners to join our team and they collectively brought in thousands of dollars for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund.
I want to extend a special thanks to our generous partners, Texas Barcode Systems, Paragon Print Systems, Inc. and Stratix Corporation, for joining Zebra this year for the Great Cycle Challenge and in the fight to end childhood cancer. We hope to see you back again next year.
I also want to thank everyone who participated in the Great Cycle Challenge this year and raised funds for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. Many reached personal bests this year, in miles traveled or in funds raised – or both. Congratulations on these achievements! Our goals were the highest set to date and were still surpassed.
You may be wondering what this means in terms of impact. Here’s an example: the Children’s Cancer Research Fund issued a grant for Beau Webber, PhD, and Logan Spector, PhD, to uncover the origins of Ewing sarcoma in 2017. This project has just received a multimillion-dollar R01 award, a grant obtained by less than 20% of applicants, to continue researching Ewing sarcoma for genetic connections.
Our Great Cycle Challenge champions within Zebra are already planning to grow our team in 2023. We invite you to join us in the fight to end childhood cancer – setting even higher goals, continuing to challenge ourselves, and boosting our mental and physical health along the way.
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