Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Surprising Health Benefits of Mountain Biking

This is an article by Helen Grayson

Few things can beat the rush of a downhill ride, or a slow ride through a particularly lush, area of our favorite forest. Mountain bikers know that what we most miss when we’re not out cycling, is the sensation of getting away from it all, feeling the freedom of speed and the thrill of a great jump, in the midst of the magnificence of the Great Outdoors. We know that mountain biking is a great workout; that it gets our heart racing and helps us obtain a leaner, stronger shape – yet there are many more hidden benefits we may not really comprehend, but which are powerful and life-changing. Some of mountain biking’s most surprising health benefits include:

  • Better Mental Health: Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental conditions in the world and both can be triggered by chronically high stress levels. Mountain biking is a great stress buster, bringing down cortisol (stress hormone) levels for two reasons: because it provides a powerful cardiovascular workout, and because it takes place in the midst of Nature. Various studies have shown that an outdoor beneficial workout is more beneficial than an indoor one, providing a greater sense of enjoyment, and reducing stress levels to a far greater extent.
  • Battling the Addiction to Technology: The vast majority of kids in the United States spend less than 30 minutes outdoors engaging in unstructured play. Most blame the heat, a lack of access or interest in Nature, and even obesity. Others are so addicted to technology, that they feel compelled to spend various hours a day connected to their computer, tablet or TV set. The statistics are a reminder of what Nature writer, Richard Louv, called ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ – basically, children have become so disconnected from the outdoor world, that they can lack the ability to concentrate, develop conditions such as anxiety and panic attacks, and can pack on the pounds, revealing the detrimental nature of their sedentary lifestyle. Louv says that we are “telling kids unconsciously that nature's in the past. It really doesn't count anymore, that the future is in electronics, and besides, the bogeyman is in the woods.” The best way to battle the trend to spend all our time indoors, is to find a pastime we enjoy outdoors – and few are quite as addictive as mountain biking.
  • Mountain Biking is Better than Indoor Cycling: You may think you are doing yourself a great favor by taking part in indoor cycling classes, but take note: people burn more calories when they exercise outdoors. Nothing can quite make up for the varied terrain we encounter when we are mountain biking – indoor bikes have a long way to go in terms of replicating the thrill of a downhill ride or the true difficulty of cycling uphill, with more impediments than mere gravity standing in our way. While it is true that outdoor cycling can do more damage to our bike than road or indoor cycling, keen bikers will say that is part of the fun – preparing for accidents and broken equipment and finding a way, by hook or by crook, to make it to the bottom of that mountain!
  • It Expands Your Social Circle: by singing up for one of SWAMP Club’s fun activities, you can meet some pretty amazing people from all walks of life! Having a wide social circle has many more benefits than the obvious. Recent research shows, for instance, that having friends or being part of a close family or community, increases our lifespan, improves our sense of wellbeing and helps us stave off diseases such as dementia in when we are older. Connection is always of the essence, but when it takes place in Nature while partaking in the fun activity that is mountain biking, the sensation is indescribable and pretty close to fantastic.

If you’ve been thinking of signing up for a guided ride or attending a fun event or festival, don’t hesitate. SWAMP is there to help beginner, intermediate and advanced riders alike reach their very best potential. Novice riders should consider the basic mountain bike riding skills workshop, which will teach you vital skills and show you how to stay safe. Learn all about mountain biking by heading for the wild, wonderful outdoors instead of learning from a book, and begin to reap the benefits of what many would say is one of the most liberating sports in the world.