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:
Improved Heart Health
Regular exercise is known to improve cardiovascular fitness. Over 10,000 people were studied by the British Medical Association and showed that at least 20 miles a week riding a bicycle lessened the risk of coronary heart disease by almost 50%. A large muscle groups that require a lot of oxygen is used for mountain biking. This makes the heart work steadily, increasing your heart’s fitness by 3-7%.
Less Stress on the Joints
Mountain biking puts less stress on your joints than other aerobic activities such as running which means it is a low impact sport. The act of sitting takes the pressure off of your joints and reduces the risk of injuring them, which means cycling is also considered a non-load bearing sport. Without the impact on your joints, this sport offers similar cardiovascular benefits to running.
Decreased Risk of Diseases
Your immune system can be strengthened by regular moderate exercise and keep you healthy. People who cycle for 30 minutes, 5 days a week, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina, 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.
Reduced Stress and Improved Mood
The natural endorphins that stimulate your body is released by vigorous demands of mountain biking, 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. A form of moving meditation can become the focus and attention needed to ride a challenging single-track; ultimately helping to relax and weather life’s stressors by acting as a distraction from negative thoughts that may contribute to anxiety and depression. Improving your mountain biking abilities and gaining new skills also helps to build confidence and self-esteem.
Increased Brain Power
5% improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness from cycling led to an improvement of up to 15% on mental tests, based on researchers at Illinois University. This is in part due to building brain cells in the hippocampus – the region of the brain responsible for memory. Professor Arthur Kramer said that “It boosts blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which fires and regenerates receptors, explaining how exercise helps ward off Alzheimer’s”.
Creative professionals and executives often use their sharpened brain function during exercise time to come up with ideas and solve problems.
Improved balance and coordination
Mountain biking is a dynamic activity, compare to stair-stepper or plodding on a treadmill, that requires the rider to constantly adjust to varying terrain, pitch, and elevation. Staying secure and steady on a mountain bike not only keeps you from crashing but reinforces muscle memory and strengthens neural pathways. Balance and coordination require the combined resources of the brain, senses, muscles and nervous system. As we get older, keeping these systems active, staves off disability from aging and reduces the risk of injury from falls.
Whole Body Workout
You may not realize that mountain biking uses the muscles of your whole body and you’ll recognize the defined calf muscles of an avid cyclist. There is no doubt cycling builds strong thighs, legs, and calves and helps you get that nice tight butt. The balance required to stay upright strengthens your core and abdominal muscles. Climbing and maneuvering turn also strengthens your upper body. Mountain biking doesn’t require a personal trainer or an expensive gym membership to get a good workout.
It will ultimately lead to improved regenerative sleep when you need it at night, although you may immediately feel tired and worn out after a ride. A hormone that keeps us awake, decreases cortisol due to the exercise of riding. Mountain biking is considered as an outdoor activity, which helps to maintain the body’s natural circadian sleep/wake cycle, by exposes you to daylight, not to mention raising your body’s production of vitamin D. The opposite effect of releasing stimulating endorphins that can keep you awake, can have vigorous rides too late in the day, so make sure you avoid it.
The newer field of happiness psychology has shown that healthy relationships and social interactions are key to being happy and finding meaning in life. Shared by groups and clubs mountain biking is often a social activity that get out to ride together. It provides a perfect opportunity to make new friends with people who enjoy the same activities that you do and build personal bonds.
Photo credit: pexels.com
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