While there are already a number of physical, mental and social benefits linked to horseback riding, the studies never cease. A recent study published in July 2015’s edition of the Journal of Physical Science Therapy found that elderly adults who participate in horseback riding have higher levels of serotonin and cortisol.
The study compared two groups, each composed of 10 elderly adults. While pre- and post- exercise tests on hormone levels were conducted on all subjects, only one group was given horseback riding exercises; the other served as a control group.
Comparatively, the study found the horseback riding group had significantly higher levels of serotonin and cortisol versus the control group. Pre-exercise and post-exercise tests conducted on the groups also found the horseback riding group had a significant increase in serotonin and cortisol levels following their exercise.
Serotonin and cortisol are highly important hormones in the human body. While the majority of serotonin resides in the GI tract, the neurotransmitter regulates sleep, appetite, and mood. Essentially, serotonin can affect how much sleep you need and receive, whether or not you are hungry (and by extension, whether or not you choose to eat), how happy, sad, or frustrated you feel throughout the day, and even sexual arousal. A lack of serotonin is believed by some scientists to lead to depression.
Cortisol, on the other hand, is primarily known to regulate blood pressure, metabolism and blood sugar levels, all of which are especially important to monitor in the elderly.