Over the last few decades, mountain biking has remained a popular outdoor recreational activity. According to the Outdoor Industry Foundation, nearly 40 million people mountain bike every year in the U.S.
As public health concerns including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are on the rise, physical exercise, especially in the outdoors, is becoming more critical to our health as individuals and as a society.
Mountain biking is a fun and exciting way to enjoy the many health benefits of regular fitness and cardiovascular exercise including:
1) Improved Heart Health
Regular exercise is known to improve cardiovascular fitness. The British Medical Association studied 10,000 people and showed that riding a bicycle for at least 20 miles a week lessened the risk of coronary heart disease by almost 50%. Mountain biking uses large muscle groups that require a lot of oxygen. This makes the heart work steadily, increasing your heart’s fitness by 3-7%.
2) Less Stress on the Joints
Mountain biking is a low impact sport, meaning it puts less stress on your joints than other aerobic activities such as running. Cycling is also considered a non-load bearing sport, which means that the act of sitting takes pressure off of your joints and reduces the risk of injuring them.
3) Decreased Risk of Diseases
Regular moderate exercise is known to strengthen your immune system and keep you healthy. Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that people who cycle for 30 minutes, 5 days a week take half as many sick days off work compared to their sedentary counterparts! Another study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology reported that women who exercised regularly, including cycling to work, reduced their incidence of breast cancer.
4) Reduced Stress and Improved Mood
The vigorous demands of mountain biking stimulate your body to release natural endorphins, which are the body’s way of feeling good and getting more energy. Exercise also boosts serotonin, an important neurotransmitter in the brain which helps to prevent depression and anxiety. The focus and attention needed to ride a challenging single-track can become a form of moving meditation; ultimately helping to relax and weather life’s stressors by acting as a distraction from negative thoughts that may contribute to anxiety and depression. Gaining new skills and improving your mountain biking abilities also helps to build confidence and self-esteem.
5) Increased Brain Power
Researchers at Illinois University found that a 5% improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness from cycling led to an improvement of up to 15% on mental tests. This is in part due to building brain cells in the hippocampus – the region of the brain responsible for memory. “It boosts blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which fires and regenerates receptors, explaining how exercise helps ward off Alzheimer’s,” Professor Arthur Kramer said.
Creative professionals and executives often use their sharpened brain function during exercise time to come up with ideas and solve problems.