Medical research has long shown us the positive impact exercise has on your mental well-being. Not only is exercise a mood booster, but it’s also a confidence builder, serotonin producer and a sleep inducer. This is especially true for mountain biking.
What makes mountain biking so special when it comes to your mental health? Let’s explore the special ways that this sport can impact your mental health.
#1 The Woods teach you how to let go
Being out in nature has many beneficial impacts on mental health and mood, recent studies show. For example, psychologists have shown that exposure to nature has a relaxing impact on the mind and the body. Since mountain biking is spent on trails, exposure to nature comes with almost every ride.
#2 The Speed shows you how to stay present
Going fast gets your mind to shake off unhealthy fixations— like when we ruminate on a work presentation we didn’t nail or a conversation with a friend that turned into an argument. Mountain biking demands that we be attuned to the present moment, and the speed helps us stay there. That’s why the pace that comes with biking can help take your mind off negative thoughts and patterns of thinking.
#3 The Terrain teaches you good decision making
When you’re biking on a paved trail chances are you get moments when you can zone out. But the rugged terrain of mountain biking requires you pay attention and think critically about your strategy. You have to react quickly to unexpected changes and prepare to make decisions on the fly. Navigating the terrain teaches you good decision making, which empowers you to make better choices in other areas of your life, too.
#4 The Focus shows you the mind-body connection
Mountain biking requires focus on and off the bike. For example, if you are going on a long ride, you’ll be focused on what foods you put in your body, how much rest you have had and other things that will impact your ride. This gets you noticing other connections about your mind and body— when you sleep better you not only ride better, but you feel more confident and courageous.
#5 The Stamina teaches you how to overcome
Building your physical endurance proves how much you can really handle. If you are dealing with a mental health diagnosis that seems insurmountable, the stamina you gain through mountain biking sustains you as you overcome. You can see that you are capable of more than you were the day before— both on and off the bike.
#6 The Rush keeps you attuned to the positive
Mountain biking is a thrill. There is so much adrenaline tied into the speed, terrain and obstacles. The rush of endorphins can be both a short-term and long-term mood booster. Some people battle their demons on those pedals, pushing harder and harder so that the rush expels any negativity.
#7 The Cardio ups your health and wellness game
Your blood is pumping, strengthening your heart, lungs, bones and muscles, as well as your mind. Exercise in general has a major impact on mental health, so it’s no surprise the advanced cardio you get from mountain biking has a substantial effect, as well. A healthy cardiovascular system is foundational for beating stress, anxiety and panic disorders.
#8 The Commitment puts you on the path of success
Dedicating yourself to growing in a sport like mountain biking requires a level of commitment that will both challenge and reward you. These moments transfer to other areas of your life. When you commit to regular rides, you find yourself able to dedicate yourself to other commitments that boost mental health, like seeing a therapist, prioritizing self-care or
#9 The Community gives you endless support
Mountain bikers are tight community— no matter how far apart we ride. Being part of this community gives you a sense of belonging and you don’t have to change who you are to feel it. You’ll get support and encouragement in areas you want to grow and empathy for the times when things just fall apart. There is no harsh judgement or unnecessary criticisms— just people enjoying being out in nature on two big, fat tires.
Mountain biking is a great way to get in physical shape, but it is also an amazing way to sustain your mental health, as well. Focusing on the bike, the trail and the ride empowers and encourages you to breathe deeply and let go.