By Erin Young
Do not underestimate the power of nature and green spaces to change your mood and general health. The environment around you has a huge impact on how you perceive the world and how you feel on any given day. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, you may feel overwhelmed, stressed and hurried. Once you hit the trails, and immerse yourself in a forest or natural landscape, studies have shown that stress levels are reduced, blood pressure decreases and your overall well-being increases. Don’t believe it? Compare your body’s reaction when biking in the city vs. biking through the forest.
2. Biking is easy on your joints
If you have bad knees or hips, biking can offer great exercise, while having minimal impact on your joints. Running can often be a difficult sport to start and some of us may have past injuries that make it hard on the body, but biking is much easier on your body.
Mountain bikers are great yogis. It’s hard to think about anything else but biking when you’re hopping over logs, riding through streams and around tight corners with trees on either side. You have to be focused on riding, be in the moment to avoid injuries and get the most out of the experience. You will forget about doing your taxes, your annoying boss or recent troubles – and instead, release loads of happy endorphins that will have you smiling from ear to ear.
4. Biking makes for a healthy heart
Biking will get your heart pumping. Steep climbs will challenge your cardiovascular strength and over time your heart will become stronger. The recovery period for those climbs will decrease and you will find it easier to accomplish longer and more challenging rides.
5. Biking encourages social connections
I recently watched a TED Talk by Harvard researcher Robert Waldringer, entitled “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From The Longest Study on Happiness” – want to know the secret to a good life? According to Robert’s study it’s high quality social relationships. The closer you are with friends and family, the happier you will be in the long run. So, what does this have to do with biking? EVERYTHING. Mountain biking encourages trailside chats with bike buddies and post-ride hang-outs to debrief the ride and talk about life. Biking brings people together, to teach each other new skills, learn from others and create memorable experiences in beautiful places.
Want to give group rides a try? Check out the Kalamazoo Bike Club. They have group ride locations and times listed on their website. Most cities have bicycle clubs that are warm and welcoming to all riding abilities, especially new cyclists. All you need are two wheels and a helmet! Visit Pedal in Kalamazoo for all of your cycling needs and Custer Cyclery if you are in the market for a mountain bike experience.