While cycling has become a very popular trend in recent years, for health reasons as well as saving money on fuel, mountain biking is proving to be better for you. The difference being mountain biking gives you the extra edge your body needs to maintain high levels of fitness and health. Not only does a great ride provide you large amounts of fun, thrills, and adrenaline pumping into your veins, the health benefits of riding mountain bikes has made a statement across medical studies that this sport is truly worth trying.
- Better Sleep
After a ride you might feel the immediate effects of feeling tired and worn out. This feeling will translate to the long term when you finally make it back to your pillow in the evening for the very important good night’s rest. Riding mountain bikes is an outdoor activity which exposes you to daylight and helps set the body’s internal clock back to normal. This is extremely useful for those who have trouble getting to sleep and/or staying asleep, and for those who suffer from insomnia. Riders can achieve a deeper sleep since the exercise eliminates cortisol, a stress hormone, in the body which allows for the regenerative sleep to easily be reached and take place. Once you begin riding you will find yourself waking up feeling rested and ready for the next ride.
- Increases Muscle Tone
Once you begin any rigorous exercise, your body will definitely take notice. At first you will start to notice soreness from the different muscles being engaged during exercise. Over time, depending on how much you ride, you will begin to notice your muscles becoming more lean, defined, and strong. If you are really serious, look into the benefits of creatine for muscle growth. The target areas of mountain bike riding are: the calves, thighs, buttocks, hips, tendons, and abs. At times you will find yourself having to carry your bike which will in turn, strengthen your arms and shoulders. It won’t take long before you’re a lean, mean, riding machine.
- Getting Fit Without Trying Too Hard
Mountain biking is a total body sport, which means all muscles are engaged throughout the entire exercise session. So you can take your bike for a quick thirty minute session and while you might not notice, your whole body has just received the exercise that it needs. The constant shift of your weight on a track is necessary to have a safe and enjoyable ride. It also means that weight is being placed on different muscles providing a resistance that will put them to work. Besides, regular everyday cycling beats having a wallet stretching gym membership any day.
- Developing a Positive Addiction
William Glasser, author of ‘Positive Addiction’ tells us that you should replace a negative addiction such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or eating too much junk food, with a positive one. When you are riding a track you will have adrenaline and endorphins released. The feelings these natural chemicals your body produces is what gives mountain bikers more often than not the nickname of ‘adrenaline junkies’. Speak to any rider and they will tell you that you will become addicted to riding.
- Decreases Diseases
Several studies show that regular moderate exercise, such as mountain biking, will help strengthen your immune system. This will help your body fight off that cold or cough that is going around. Also, a study done by the European Journal of Epidemiology found that women who bike more than thirty minutes each day will have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina found that people who cycle for 30 minutes, ﬁve days a week take about half as many sick days as couch potatoes. Regardless of who you are, mountain biking will not only help to get you healthier, it will keep you healthy.
- Keeps Your Heart Healthy
Cardiovascular health is important for your body, no matter your age. Not only will your blood flow increase, but your heart and lungs will work better together to deliver more oxygen throughout your body in a more efficient way. A study done by the British Medical Association on 10,000 people showed that riding a bicycle for at least twenty miles a week, lessons your risk of having coronary heart disease by almost 50%. (Source: mdhealthdisparities.org). And according to the British Heart Foundation, around 10,000 fatal heart attacks could be avoided each year if people kept themselves ﬁtter. Needless to say, mountain biking greatly improves your cardiovascular health.
- Easy on the joints
Mountain biking is a low impact exercise, meaning it will not put too much stress on your joints in comparison to running or other aerobic activities. Indeed you will feel some soreness after a hard ride or if you are just starting out, but you won’t have the same pain in your joints if you had taken a run instead. In addition to being low impact, mountain biking is also a non-load bearing sport. The act of sitting means there is a certain degree of pressure being taken away from your joints and therefore lowers your risk of injuring them.
- Decreases Stress
Dr. Andrew Lepp, of Kent State University, preformed a study in 2007 to find the effects of mountain biking on a rider’s emotional well-being. According to the study, this outdoor activity decreases stress levels in all riders. The sense of challenge and adventure in each ride lets riders release endorphins, which helps eliminate hormones that cause them stress, if even just for a little while.
- Makes You Happy
If you’re having a bad day or just feeling a bit miserable, flying through the miles on a track will be sure to boost your spirit. Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation states ‘Any mild to moderate exercise releases the natural feel good endorphins that help make you happy’. This is probably why four times more general practitioners prescribe exercise therapy for patients with depression as compared to three years ago. Just a thirty minute session, three times per week will give you the emotional lift that you need.
- Boosts Self Confidence
Whether you rode that technical downhill descent, rode over your first log, or cleared a rock garden, the challenges you can overcome in mountain biking will not only make you a better rider, it raise your self- confidence. Meeting these challenges and setting higher goals will leave you feeling great about yourself and what you have accomplished. Since you are becoming more physically fit, this will improve your outward appearance as well and leave you feeling like you can hold your head high.
- Helps You Make Friends
The mountain biking community expands across the globe. This sociable sport will have you meeting people in no time. Whether you join a mountain biking club, bump into fellow riders on a trail, or sign up for a race, there are several opportunities to make new friends amongst the riding circuit. Riding with buddies is not only fun and a great bonding experience it is also much safer than riding alone. Soon you will find that riding with friends can be relaxing or competitive, depending on the group. Mixing it up keeps things interesting and gives everyone the chance to show off their skills.
- Offers a Temporary Escape From Reality
Getting out onto the trail for a ride can help you find peace of mind. Being in your own company and enjoying the quiet and just focusing on your ride, lets everything else in your mind just slip away. The distraction of mountain biking allows riders to escape their worries and cycle of negative thoughts which in turn helps decrease anxiety. Solo riding is recommended for doing just that, as long as you take all the safety precautions necessary in case of an emergency.
- Improves Your Coordination and Balance
Regular cycling will improve your balance and coordination. Since every trail or track is different, each time you ride you are honing your balance and coordination skills. Hand-eye coordination and balance are needed with every twist, turn, bump, or descent and these skills practiced on the track will also translate to everyday life. Before you know it your reflexes will become cat-like and your sense of balance and coordination will be impeccable.
- Good for the Environment
It is no secret that cycling is becoming more and more popular because of recognized health benefits. In addition to keep yourself healthy, you are doing wonders for the environment. Riding mountain bikes saves petrol and bikes do not produce carbon dioxide which is harmful to the ozone layers and the air. Not only are you no longer contributing to pollution with each ride, you are avoiding it as well.
- Strengthens Current Relationships
Mountain biking is something that caters to all ages and all types of people. Taking the family out for a ride will give everyone a healthy activity and great memories. Riding is a wonderful way to bond closer to your significant other, as well as your circle of friends. Experiencing rides and challenges together gives you something to bond over. Slowing down to a matched pace with your group lets you enjoy each other’s company and the ride.
- Gives You a Better Workout
While regular bike riding is a good source of exercise, mountain biking significantly increases the amount of cardio you are doing. A thirty minute ride can give you high levels of cardio, and since it is low impact, it is much better for you than running for the same amount of time. The dynamic levels of fitness required from mountain biking range from quick bursts to sustained cardio output. The total body engagement with a variety of cardio in each ride gives puts all your muscle groups to the test, as well as your endurance.
- Lots of Riding Styles to Choose From
The world of mountain biking is a large and varied one. When you are just starting out it can seem overwhelming to find a bike for you or what type of riding you would like to do. That’s the great thing about it! The several different options of riding include: Cross-Country, All-Mountain, Freeride, Enduro, DH, and Lift-assisted. No matter what your personality is like, there’s a mountain bike and a trail out there for you.
- Getting in Touch With Nature
When you are on the trail you are experiencing the great outdoors. Being outside provides a quiet and solitude that allows you to commune with nature. Trails often lead to serene and remote places that give you the chance to meditate and enjoy your surroundings. More often than not, riders report spotting wildlife without even trying. Getting the fresh air from being enveloped by trees keeps you in tune with nature and keeps you healthy.
- No Cars
When you are out on a trail, there will not be a single car in sight. It’s just you, your bike, nature, and fellow riders. The noise and air pollution from traffic is non-existent. Road riding might be preferable to some, but when a car narrowly misses you on a highway going high speeds, it will leave you thinking you should be out mountain biking instead.
- Seeing New Places
When you are trying to find that perfect trail, a new challenge, or adventure you can go much further on your mountain bike than travelling on foot allows. This opens up several opportunities to see new places. Whether it is along streams, trails, wooded areas, down to the ocean, or up in the mountains, you can get to each of these places with your mountain bike. Riders can experience unique and beautiful places that they normally wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for their bike.
- Looking Younger
Studies have shown that those who participate in regular cycling look ten years younger than those of their age group who do not. The increased circulation from exercise allows your body to deliver oxygen and nutrients more efficiently to your cells. This process also flushes out toxins quicker. The high level of cardio exercise allows your body to create an environment ideal and optimizing for collagen production. This is beneficial for reducing wrinkles and aiding in the healing process. Riders not only look younger, they feel younger too.
- You Can Help Others
Several cyclists turn their hobby into a way to fundraise for the less fortunate. Every year there are races held across the world to raise funds for charities. Mountain biking is a great way to give yourself what you need, but more than that you can give back to your community using your bike and your body.
- Don’t Have to Be Super Fit to Begin
Regardless of your current physical shape, you can begin mountain biking at any time. For those that are trying to lose weight, this is a much better option that taking up running since it is a low impact, high cardio sport. With the numerous amounts of trails and mountain biking types, you are sure to find a great way to begin an exercise regime. With time and regular cycling, you will find yourself becoming super fit.
- Great For All Ages
Mountain biking is a sport that can be practiced by anyone, of any age. From children to even pensioners, able bodied and disabled, this sport can give everyone the exercise they need with the right equipment. Many mountain bike retailers have bikes that are made specifically for kids, and several companies allow for customization. This means that everyone in your family can head out on the trail. Just make sure the trail is appropriate for everyone’s skill level and endurance.
- Improve Stamina
Uphill riding is a great way to test your stamina. Long term mountain biking will improve that stamina. Riding is beneficial for your sex drive, endurance, and even becoming better at other sports. A rough terrain trail is a natural choice for those looking to improve their stamina. Newcomers and long-time enthusiasts can agree that being a fit and healthy rider not only improves your health, but can ensure your body is ready for the next ride or physical activity.
- Lung Improvement
Your lungs work considerably harder whenever you are out for a ride. Adult riders use ten times more oxygen when riding than sitting in front of a television. Your lung capacity will increase by at least 20% overtime. In addition to being able to take in more oxygen, your heart and lungs will be able to work better together. This will enable your body to send oxygen where you need it, faster, which means more exercise with less effort. Since you are out in nature, there is no carbon dioxide pollution to breathe in, which is also great for lung health.
- Increases Your Brain Power
Exercise is a known stimulant for brain function. Researchers from the University of Illinois have found that those who have a five percent increase in cardio-respiratory exercise from mountain bike riding, leads to an improvement in mental tests by fifteen percent. This is due to the fact that cycling helps build new brain cells in the hippocampus, the region in the brain responsible for memories. “It boosts blood ﬂow and oxygen to the brain, which ﬁres and regenerates receptors, explaining how exercise helps ward off Alzheimer’s,” says the study’s author, Professor Arthur Kramer.
- Burn More Fat
Since mountain biking can be started by anyone, at any time, several people are using this sport as an option to shed some pounds in comparison to running. A brisk cycling rate can help you burn 500 calories per hour. Fat burning begins when your heart is at 65%-75% of your maximum. Whether you measure your heart rate manually or with a heart rate monitor, a correct measurement will ensure you get the most out of your ride. Not only are you burning fat away during your ride, your metabolic rate becomes more efficient after a good ride. With a better metabolic rate, you continue to burn fat even a few hours after you finish your ride. Studies have also shown that teenagers who participate in biking are 48% less likely to be overweight by the time they reach adulthood.
- Easy to Fit Into Your Lifestyle
Mountain biking is such an easy sport to incorporate into your daily routine. Many riders use their bike as a mode of transportation. Quick errands being done by riding your bike will help ensure you meet your exercise goals, and it is an eco-friendly solution. It is also very easy to get started with this hobby as you do not need that much equipment. Besides a bike, a helmet, appropriate clothing, and reflector lights if you plan on riding at night, you can get started without having to buy a lot of gear. Although there are countless items available for purchase through many different venues, as long as you have the basics covered, you are ready to go out riding.
Most of all, riders are able to enjoy the freedom that comes with every ride. Being able to explore, find new trails, and adventures, is a very liberating feeling. Feeling the wind and breathing the fresh air, while you fly down a descent is what most riders live for. Many riders end up driving around awhile in search of the perfect trail or beautiful spot that will make the ride worth it. Finding that sense of freedom will have you returning to trails again and again.
Mountain biking is a great way to improve mental, physical, and emotional health, as well as being ecologically friendly. Mountain biking is proving to be one of the best, low impact, sports, for those seeking cardiovascular health, trying to stay fit, or looking to shed some pounds. Staying healthy is just as important as having fun and if your hobby can provide both, it seems you have made the right choice. So what are you waiting for? Get yourself out on the trail today, your mind and body will thank you.