The Physical Health Benefits of Mountain Biking
The benefits of mountain biking go far beyond the fresh air of the mountains, staying fit and enjoying time with friends. In Fact, the health benefits of cycling and, in particular, mountain biking are not just anecdotal but scientifically backed.
When most people think about mountain biking, they conjure up images of young pros racing downhill and jumping over obstacles, but the reality is that everyone can enjoy the benefits of getting outside and enjoying the great outdoors; on a mountain bike course.
So with that said, let’s look at the top health benefits mountain biking offers.
1. Full-Body Fitness
Ok, so you might be wondering how mountain biking provides me with a full-body workout. Well, apart from your legs taking a pounding, your core and stabilizer muscles also get a good workout, as do your arms and shoulders.
Each little bump and snag that you need to navigate activates every muscle in your body. Unlike road cycling, mountain biking is an excellent way to strengthen your muscles while improving your aerobic capacity at the same time.
2. The Best of Both Worlds
Have you ever tried running on a treadmill or spending hours on a stationary bike? Looking at a digital screen can get pretty boring, right? Enter mountain biking. What better way to get fit and have fun than riding through the trails and enjoying all the wonders nature offers?
The great thing about riding a mountain bike is that you get to pick the scenery. Want to enjoy the ocean views? Head down to the beach and take one of the many paths. Fancy the rugged trails? Pack up your bike and head for the mountains.
It’s up to you; that’s the wonderful thing about mountain biking.
3. Shape Up Your Muscles
As a professional coach and former head of high performance, I can tell you it’s a myth that performing “any” sporting activity will get you toned and slim. It’s simply not true, but when it comes to mountain biking, it’s one of the best ways to tone your muscles and shed that body fat.
Being out on the bumpy trails puts a great deal of emphasis on your stabilizer muscles as well as your bigger muscles like your legs and arms. Controlling the bike and holding onto the handlebars for dear life isn’t easy, which is precisely why it tones your arms, legs, and even your buttocks.
4. Boost Cardiovascular Health
A strong cardiovascular system is critical in improving health and well-being, increasing quality of life, and longevity. Mountain biking is an excellent way to boost your heart health and aerobic capacity; even better, it strengthens your muscles simultaneously.
The more oxygen that is pumping through your body, the healthier and better you’ll not only feel but look too. Your skin will improve, and you’ll lose weight which takes the stress off your heart; exactly what you want.
5. Get A Low Impact Workout
Many exercises like running, for example, place a tremendous amount of stress on your body’s joints. Not only can this cause short-term injury and pain, but it can lead to debilitating long-term conditions like chronic inflammation and arthritis.
Riding a bike is what we call a “low-impact” training activity meaning it places little to no stress on your joints. Low-impact exercises are good for two primary reasons. Firstly, you don’t need to worry about a serious injury; secondly, it means you can ride your bike daily without worrying about overtraining.
6. Boost Your Cognitive Prowess
Who would’ve thought that riding your mountain bike can not only improve your strength and conditioning and increase your cardio health but also boost your cognitive power? But that’s exactly what the power of mountain biking can do.
As you get fitter, more and more oxygen is pumped into your brain, resulting in increased brain health, shaper reactions, and the ability to concentrate and focus for longer. Put simply, the fitter you are physically, the stronger and sharper you are mentally; the two go hand-in-hand.
7. Improves Balance and Coordination
If you want to improve your balance and stability, then mountain biking is the sport for you. When you’re out riding the trails, you are constantly weaving, jumping, and swerving obstacles to go as fast as you can while staying upright.
Mountain biking forces you to make thousands of decisions every time you ride, improving your decision-making skills and overall coordination. Balance and coordination are particularly critical for the elderly, which is another good reason to get yourself a mountain bike.
8. Sleep Like A Baby
One benefit you might not have considered is that mountain biking can actually help with your sleep quality. Yes, being physically tired from mountain biking is one of the main reasons you sleep like a baby. But more importantly, being out in the fresh air and enjoying the great outdoors is a great way to relieve stress.
The reduction in stress and anxiety can help you sleep quicker and deeper than ever before. So get out on the bike, clear your mind and have a laugh; I guarantee you’ll sleep much better.
9. Shred The Body Fat
Let’s be honest; we all have a little bit of extra weight that we’d like to shed, especially if summer is just around the corner. Cycling and mountain biking are two of the most effective, efficient, and fun ways to lose weight.
Because cycling and mountain biking are low-impact sports, you can perform them daily, which translates into greater trainer volume and more calories burned. Mountain biking, in particular, provides an excellent full-body workout that combines strength and aerobic demands that turbocharge your metabolism and body into losing weight.
Now that’s a win-win.
10. Regulate Your Metabolism
Mountain biking increases your fitness, which in turn increases your metabolism. When your metabolism works at a higher rate, it’s much more effective at burning fat and helps regulate your body weight and appetite.
Not to mention that a faster metabolism provides you with more energy, improves digestion, boosts your immune system, and even has you burn more calories while you sleep.
The Mental Health Benefits of Mountain Biking
Having been a passionate cyclist my entire life, I can honestly say that the benefits I value the most about cycling are those that help clear my mind from the day-to-day stresses of working and family life. Let’s take a look at the top 7 mental benefits that mountain biking can provide.
11. Reduce Stress And Anxiety
One of the best ways to reduce stress is by getting out and working up a sweat. Whether it’s road cycling, running, or mountain biking, exercising is a surefire way to relieve stress, reduce anxiety, and have you feeling better than ever before.
When you’re fitter, you can sleep better, think better and make clearer and more rational decisions. Thinking clearly helps put things into perspective and allows you to appreciate the little things in life, like mountain biking with friends and enjoying the wonders of mother nature.
12. There’s No Better Feeling Than Freedom
Freedom is undoubtedly the benefit I cherish most about cycling. Getting away and switching off helps clear my mind, and it’s where I find most of the answers to all my problems. There is just something very primal about setting off into the wilderness and not knowing where the road might take you.
13. Enjoy The Nature God Has Given Us
I must admit I’m one of the lucky ones who reside outside of the big cities or, as I like to call them, “the concrete jungles.” These days people live such fast-paced lifestyles that they have little to no time to enjoy nature and all the splendors God has given us.
I know it sounds cliche, but it’s a cliche because it’s true; the sounds of the tires on the gravel, the wind blowing, and the birds chirping make mountain biking one of the most enjoyable and relaxing experiences you can have.
14. Boost Your Self-Esteem
I’ve seen cycling do wonders for the self-esteem of my 11 yo daughter; she’s fitter, her bike handling skills have improved, and she has a greater appreciation for the role that exercise plays in leading a healthy life.
When my daughter first started riding, she was hesitant, nervous, and quite frankly terrified of going downhill. Two years later and she is an entirely different person and rider. She loves to ride fast, she competes in races, and I’ve even seen her confidence transfer over to her schooling.
15. A Chance To Help Others
As a former professional coach, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in numerous charity and fundraising events. These events offer riders a wonderful way of giving back to the local biking community. Whether volunteering as a coach for the junior team, offering advice, or even volunteering on road trips, cycling is a tight-knit community, and mountain biking is no different.
16. A Great Way To Network
Speaking of a tight-knit community, cycling and mountain biking are two of the best ways to meet new friends and grow your network. Cyclists and mountain bikers are a funny bunch, and I mean that in the most caring way; they are devoted and committed and have a passion for their sport like no other.
I was recently out on a long ride and “flatted,” and as luck had it, my tubeless tires wouldn’t seal the leak. Then out of nowhere came a lady who stopped and offered me a tube to help me get back home. She was a road cyclist who competed in ultra-endurance events and had no problems helping me get out of a sticky situation.
That’s the kind of people cyclists are.
17. Spend Time With The Family
I think it would be fair to say that most of us don’t spend enough time with family; well, I know I don’t anyway. But since my daughter and I started riding together, our relationship has grown much closer.
We always have great experiences on the bike, and she can’t wait to tell her mom every time she gets back from a ride. Like the other day when we picked up a turtle in the middle of the road and put it back in the creek. It’s great to share my passion with her and even better to see her enjoying it. My daughter is trying to get mom to ride with us, but I think that might take longer than she expects.
That’s A Wrap
When you start looking deeper at riding a bike, the health benefits go far beyond the superficial ones of losing body fat or maintaining weight; although let’s not kid ourselves, those are great too. Whether you ride a road bike, a BMX, or a mountain bike, everyone can enjoy the health benefits that two wheels offer.
Old or young, male or female, it doesn’t matter; everyone can ride a bike, and you’re never too young or old to start.
Remember, you don’t need to go ripping down steep descents to enjoy mountain biking. A simple ride around your neighbourhood with family and friends is all it takes to benefit from the wonder of being on two wheels.
Happy mountain biking!!