| Aug 05 , 2019
Mountain biking is good for your mental health. Fact. NHS Scotland has proved it.
Earlier this year NHS Scotland, Scottish Borders Health, the Galashiels Resource centre, Edinburgh Napier University and DMBinS (Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland) worked together to prove it. They delivered a six-week programme focusing on the use of mountain biking as a therapy tool for those suffering from mental ill-health.
Benefits of mountain biking
It's not hard to see why the trial succeeded. It helped the people taking part to develop their confidence by showing them that they could take on challenging situations and succeed. It also helped them improve their physical health as well. The fact they were outside and engaging with nature is one of the things that makes mountain biking such a powerful tool for improving mental health.
Why does being outside matter?
There are two significant studies that people always quote when it comes to discussing why getting outdoors is such a great help for your mental health.
The first is the national health plan, which was introduced in Japan in the early 1980s. Called "forest bathing", it required every Japanese resident to get outside and be in "the presence of trees" daily. This was because of the proven benefits for health, including:
- an improvement in the general feeling of wellbeing
- the lowering of blood pressure
- a reduction in the production of stress hormones
The other study that is often quoted was completed by Stanford University in 2015. Researchers studied the stress levels of people after they had had a 50-minute walk in the city and compared this to people who had walked in a natural environment. They found that those who had walked in a natural environment experienced greater positive emotion and less anxiety than those who had walked in the city. No surprise there, surely?
The other benefits of mountain biking include:
Exercise, which has been shown to help prevent the onset of depression as it releases endorphins in your body. Endorphins are chemicals that are naturally released in the brain to reduce pain, and in large amounts can make you feel relaxed or full of energy.
Helping you to socialise. Mountain biking is a highly social activity which is often undertaken as part of a group. You can have a laugh and share the highs and lows.
Boosting your self-confidence. When you go on a tricky ride, and you succeed in getting to the end, you will feel great about yourself. And this feeling tends to last for days.
How to get the most out of your ride?
- Set goals for yourself. Not hard ones that you may not achieve, but not too easy either. Then when you succeed, your brain will be happy.
- Connect with nature while you are riding, take in the scenery. This will help the stresses and strains of daily life just to melt away.
- Stay in the moment. Don't look at the clock, don't have your headphones in, and leave your phone in the car. This will help you stay in the moment (and not crash!)
If you're anything like us, then you'll get out on your bike as often as possible - nothing can beat the feeling you get afterwards. As cheesy as it may sound, just grab your bike, your changing mat, your poncho robe and go out and ride.