If you’ve never biked on a mountain before, you might be asking questions like, “What is mountain biking?”, “Is mountain biking a sport?”, “What muscles does biking work?”, or “Is bike riding good exercise?” But if you’re an experienced mountain biker, you might simply be wondering if there are any advantages to doing such an activity.
Wherever you are in your mountain biking journey, you should know that there are a range of health benefits to enjoy from this fun outdoor pastime. In this article, we’ll cover some biking basics and talk about seven health benefits of mountain biking that you can enjoy on your next ride. Let’s get right into it!
What is Mountain Biking?
Mountain biking is a sport where you ride your bike off-road. When we say off-road, picture rough terrain away from the concrete roads you see in your everyday life.
When people go mountain biking, they usually use mountain bikes that are specifically designed for this type of activity. While they do share similarities with regular bicycles, mountain bikes are typically heavier since they have durability and performance-enhancing features for rough terrain. And speaking of rough terrain, it’s always a good idea to have a comfortable bike seat (like our cushioned bike saddles and seat covers) to ensure that you have the best possible riding experience.
Primary Muscles That Are Worked While Biking
There’s no doubt that biking is a great form of exercise. Not only is it an excellent total body cardio workout, but it also gives your muscles a good burn. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most common muscles used in biking.
- Quadriceps (Quads): These muscles are located at the front of your thighs. As you pedal hard to increase your speed or bike uphill, your quads are hard at work.
- Hamstrings: The hamstrings are a group of three muscles that allow your knee to bend each time you pedal.
- Calves: Located at the back of your lower legs, these muscles allow you to move the bike pedals downward and lift your heels as you bring the pedals up again.
- Glutes: This group of muscles makes up the buttocks. As you pedal while biking, your glutes work hard to extend your hips and rotate the thighs.
- Abdominals: You engage your core muscles a lot when cycling. As you bike, you tighten your abdominals to help you balance, pedal stronger, and relieve pressure from your lower back muscles.
- Biceps & triceps: Gripping the handlebars on a bike and using the brake levers tones your forearms. In addition, supporting your body weight using your arms when you stand or lean forward is equivalent to holding an isometric push-up. So believe it or not, upper body strength is definitely needed for biking!
As always, it’s a good idea to stretch out your muscles before doing any form of exercise. Feel free to check out our blog post about some of the Best Stretches for Beginner and Expert Cyclists.
Also, if you’re looking to build strength and endurance in the muscles used for biking, you can look for a mountain bike workout or exercises to do (such as squats, planks, or push-ups). After all, it’s never a bad idea to keep these muscles in shape!
Health Benefits of Mountain Biking
Whether you’re mountain biking for fitness or the thrill of seeking new adventures, there are a range of health advantages that come with this exciting outdoor activity. Here are seven benefits of mountain biking (and general biking benefits) that you can enjoy.
1. Total Body Workout
As we mentioned before, mountain biking builds, tones, and strengthens muscle groups from your lower and upper body. While it’s obvious that your thighs, calves, and glutes are hard at work when you pedal, your abdominals and back muscles are also actively engaged in order to keep you balanced and upright. In addition, your arms (biceps and triceps) and shoulders (deltoids) work to support your upper body as it maneuvers the handlebars and brakes.
2. Better Joint Health
Certain aerobic exercises like running are tough on your joints. However, mountain biking is a form of low-impact exercise that doesn't put a lot of stress on your joints since you’re sitting; this also reduces the risk of joint injuries.
3. Reduced Stress
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins and serotonin — the “feel-good hormones.” This helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, which means your mood also improves. Not only that, but connecting with nature can be a form of meditation and is a great way to distract yourself from negative thoughts and stressors from your everyday life.
4. Disease Prevention
Numerous studies have shown that regular exercise is important to maintain good health. In fact, activities like mountain biking can help reduce the risk of developing serious conditions such as obesity, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and Parkinson’s disease.
5. Improved Balance & Coordination
Mountain biking is a step up from biking on a paved road. The changing environments you encounter include various terrain, elevation, and steepness, which means you need to constantly adjust and steady yourself on your bike. This requires a lot of balance and coordination from your brain, muscles, and nervous system.
6. Better Posture
Bad posture leads to weak and unused muscles. If you remember all the muscles used in biking (especially the core and back), then you’ll know that mountain biking is a great way to strengthen these muscle groups and improve your posture. As you bike with your hands on the handlebars, you’re forced to keep your back straight and avoid slouching (even if you lean forward).
7. Improved Reflexes
With mountain biking, there’s no telling what you will come across. Whether it’s a twist or turn in your path, a rock in the middle of the road, or a low-hanging tree branch, your reflexes and reaction time will be put to the test.
Benefits of Mountain Biking: Final Thoughts
Now that you know about the basics and benefits of mountain biking, you’re ready to get pedaling! No matter where you are in your bike journey, remember to enjoy the ride and live in the moment. So here’s to all of the beginner, intermediate, and expert mountain bikers, nature lovers, and thrill seekers; your next adventure awaits you.
Contributing Writer: Rebecca Lee