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Benefits of mountain biking far outweigh the risks

A recent study led by Curtin University in Australia challenges the commonly held notion that mountain biking is a high-risk sport exclusive for adrenaline junkies. 

Instead, the research suggests that the health rewards of mountain biking surpass the risks involved.

Focus of the study 

The experts examined data from multiple global studies, involving 220,935 injured mountain bikers and 17,757 injured hikers. 

The main objective was to identify injury patterns and specific body areas affected to better understand the type of medical interventions needed for different types of injuries.

What the researchers discovered 

The investigation revealed that the primary injuries mountain bikers sustain are to their upper limbs, mostly resulting in minor issues such as scratches, bruises, and cuts. 

By contrast, hikers often incur injuries to their legs and ankles, predominantly experiencing blisters and ankle sprains.

Fast-growing activity

“Mountain biking and hiking are some of the fastest growing recreation activities in the world, so understanding the spectrum of injuries becomes paramount for effective medical care,” said study lead author Paul Braybrook, a doctoral student in Health Sciences at Curtin.

“Despite a common perception of mountain biking as an ‘extreme’ sport, we found most reported injuries were of low severity.” 

“Although there were high proportions of ankle sprains in hikers and arm fractures in mountain bikers, with one study of the latter reporting more than half suffered head injuries, highlighting the importance of a good quality helmet.”

Improved standards

According to Braybrook, as the popularity of these pursuits has recently increased, so too has the standards of bikes, trails, protective hear, and footwear, thus reducing the risks of serious injuries. 

Moreover, in the case of mountain biking, there has recently been a significant shift from the more extreme ‘radical’ riding styles that originated years ago in regions like Colorado and California, to a milder, more health-oriented style.

Thus, the health advantages derived from mountain biking and hiking significantly overshadow the associated injury risks. 

Study implications 

“Mountain biking and hiking not only contribute to economic growth through tourism but also offer clear health perks. They aid in enhancing cardiovascular health and lower the risks of conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, elevated cholesterol levels, and type 2 diabetes,” Braybrook explained.

“With Spring in full bloom, it’s the perfect time for individuals to regularly engage in their closest trails for biking or hiking. Not only are they enjoyable and beneficial for fitness, but they also come with minor risks like the occasional scratch or bruise,” he concluded.

Surge in popularity 

Mountain biking has been growing in popularity over the years. It’s a great way to stay fit, explore nature, and have fun. The surge in popularity can be attributed to several factors such as the development of better and more accessible trails, improvements in mountain bike technology, and a growing awareness of the mental and physical health benefits of outdoor activities. 

Additionally, the rise of social media has helped in building a community of mountain bikers and sharing experiences and tips. Mountain biking has become popular among people of all ages and skill levels.

Health benefits

Mountain biking offers a range of health benefits, both physical and mental. Physically, it’s an excellent cardiovascular workout that also engages major muscle groups, helping to improve strength, balance, and endurance. The varied and often challenging terrain helps to build core strength and agility.

Mentally, being in nature can reduce stress and improve mood, thanks to the release of endorphins during physical activity. 

Mountain biking can also boost self-confidence as you overcome obstacles and improve your skills. Overall, it’s a holistic activity that can contribute to a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.

The popularity of mountain biking trails can vary by region and individual preferences, but there are some renowned trails around the world that are frequently cited as must-rides for enthusiasts. Here are some of them:

Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Known for its bike park, Whistler has trails suitable for all levels of riders.

Moab, Utah, USA

Trails like “The Whole Enchilada” and “Slickrock” are famous for their challenging terrains and stunning landscapes.

Rotorua, New Zealand

Known for its geothermal activity and lush forests, Rotorua offers a variety of trails that attract riders from around the world.

Les Gets, France

Part of the Portes du Soleil area, Les Gets offers a large network of trails with varying difficulty, popular among European riders.

Finale Ligure, Italy

This is a popular destination for enduro riding and offers a variety of trails along the Italian Riviera.

Crested Butte, Colorado, USA

Known for its scenic beauty and challenging trails, it’s a favorite among mountain bikers looking for an adrenaline rush.

Downieville, California, USA

Famous for its Downieville Classic race, the area offers rugged and scenic trails.

Sedona, Arizona, USA

Known for its red rocks and challenging technical trails, Sedona is a mountain biker’s paradise.

Alps, Switzerland/France/Austria

The Alps offer some of the most scenic riding in the world, with trails that pass through multiple countries.

Queenstown, New Zealand

Often called the “Adventure Capital of the World,” Queenstown offers trails with breathtaking views.

The study is published in the journal PLoS ONE.

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