What are the benefits of mountain biking?

 An outdoor sport, both intense and cardio, mountain biking is increasingly seducing the hearts of the French, some 7 million of whom practice it regularly. And that’s good, because this sport is as good for the body as it is for the mind. Pierre Miklic, Expert Coach of cycling sports, tells us about the health benefits of mountain biking!

Is mountain biking good for your health?

Like its two-wheeled cousins ​​- city or racing bikes - and perhaps even more, mountain biking is a healthy sport par excellence. Numerous studies have confirmed its health benefits. One of them (source 1), carried out in 2000 among 30,000 people aged 20 to 93, concluded that the use of bicycles when traveling between home and work would lead to a reduction in the risk of early mortality by 28 %  ! A French report carried out in 2013 for the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy also assessed the reduction in risks for some pathologies  : minus 30% for coronary heart disease , minus 24% for cerebrovascular diseases, minus 20% for type 2 diabetes, minus 15% for breast cancer, minus 40% for colon cancer. Just like cycling, mountain biking is undeniably one of the best sports for your health.

“Of course, we must not dismiss the notion of risk which exists in any sport. To reduce them as much as possible, I recommend practicing it in the countryside rather than on the road to avoid road violence,” explains Pierre Miklic. On this subject, a study carried out in 2012 by the Île-de-France Regional Health Observatory estimated that the benefits of regular cycling were 20 times greater than its risks . No more excuses for not getting started!

What are the advantages and benefits of mountain biking?

“Mountain biking is an extremely complete activity, which allows you to strengthen the muscles of the entire body , improve your endurance , your tone and get your heart working  ,” summarizes Pierre Miklic. Practiced on unstable terrain as is generally the case, mountain biking allows you to improve your balance and alertness, two essential qualities in everyday life.

On the mental side, mountain biking has no equal for getting away from everyday life, escaping, relaxing and relieving stress.

Practiced in the great outdoors, mountain biking provides a real breath of fresh air, which is very valuable, particularly for people who live in an urban environment and who have an intense and sedentary professional activity. It’s almost a therapeutic sport! Pierre Miklic, coach Expert in cycling sports

Often practiced in groups, mountain biking is also very friendly and allows you to create social bonds.  Finally, like all sports and perhaps even more so due to contact with nature, mountain biking allows the release of endorphins , also known as happiness hormones.

Caloric expenditure and effects on weight and figure

Mountain biking is a very energy-intensive sport, since its practice allows you to burn between 500 and 900 calories per hour . “This figure of course depends on the athlete's metabolism , the intensity of the practice and the nature of the terrain,” specifies the coach.

Like all sports, its regular practice can contribute to losing weight , but only if it is part of good dietary hygiene! “You can practice 5 hours a week and not lose weight if you eat too much and poorly,” recalls the trainer.

On the other hand, we can say that cycling refines the silhouette , by strengthening the muscles , particularly in the lower body.
Furthermore, mountain biking improves blood circulation , particularly that of the lower limbs, and is therefore very effective in the fight against cellulite  !

Does mountain biking make you lose belly fat?

Mountain biking, like any sport, involves significant calorie expenditure and can therefore contribute to the loss of fat tissue, if accompanied by a healthy and balanced diet . However, weight loss is never localized and occurs throughout the body. Cycling can therefore help you lose body fat, but not only in the abdominal area . Reducing belly fat also depends on your body shape and your personal metabolism. It is also essential to combine this sporting activity with a healthy and balanced diet to observe optimal results.

“Finally, contrary to what one might think, mountain biking puts a lot of strain on the abdominal muscles , which can help to tone this area of ​​the body and sculpt the silhouette,” adds Pierre Miklic.

Is mountain biking more physical than road cycling?

Unlike road cycling, mountain biking is practiced in nature, on irregular and often very hilly terrain, which makes it more physically intense.

It is considered that mountain biking is between 1.5 and 1.7 times more intense than road cycling. Pierre Miklic.

Another factor is the weight of the bike: a mountain bike is generally heavier than a racing bike, which adds to the intensity of the practice!

Which muscles work the most when mountain biking?

Mountain biking uses all of the body's muscles, to varying degrees.

First of all, it is of course the legs which are mainly used:

  • the quadriceps and hamstrings are used when pushing on the pedals,
  • the calves work to maintain balance and bring the feet back into position.

Beyond the legs, mountain biking also works the core, particularly the abdominals and back muscles to maintain a stable posture and to control the bike on descents or turns.

Finally, the arms and shoulders are also heavily used when mountain biking, in particular to control the direction of the bike, absorb shocks and support the weight of the body, particularly when riding uphill or on uneven terrain.

How to warm up to avoid injuries?

Before tackling the mountain bike trails, it is essential to prepare your body for the effort . An adequate warm-up helps reduce the risk of tears and sprains linked to intense effort or a fall. “Starting too quickly in intensity puts the body under stress and risks injury,” recalls the coach.

The warm-up begins with a gentle mobilization of the joints and muscles. “We generally start standing, next to the bike, with slow rotations of the ankles, wrists and neck to unlock the body,” continues Pierre Miklic.

Then comes the physical and cardiovascular warm-up, this time on the bike. “We start by riding at a slow pace , on flat ground , at low intensity to work aerobically. The warm-up should ideally last around twenty minutes to be effective,” specifies the latter. The nature and duration of the warm-up may, however, vary depending on your fitness level, body type and the intensity of the training to follow.

How many times should you train per week?

To fully benefit from the benefits of mountain biking, it is recommended to do it three times a week. It is at this frequency that its impact on health and fitness will be optimal. “For example, you can do one outing during the week and two at the weekend , one of which is gentler and the other more intense,” recommends our expert.

People who want to progress more quickly, who are in good physical condition can consider increasing the number of weekly sessions to four or more. Be careful, however, to maintain a good balance between training and recovery to avoid injuries.

“The results begin to be appreciable after just one month, whether from a ventilation point of view, gestures and comfort in practice,” adds the coach.

Should we provide accessories for training?

Mountain bike training requires a few essential accessories.

A helmet that attaches to the chin strap, long gloves, ideally with reinforcements at the malleoli, and protective glasses are mandatory. Pierre Miklic.

While glasses may seem optional, they are not! “They protect against projections , insects and plants  : they greatly limit the risk of falling!  » insists the expert coach.

For outings in the great outdoors, a compact repair kit, containing patches, a mini-pump and a spare inner tube can be very practical in the event of a puncture.

In the event of a long outing of two hours or more, a bottle of water and a small snack (cereal bar, banana, dried fruit) are recommended. “We plan on 1.5 liters of water for a two-hour outing,” insists Pierre Miklic.

Finally, a first aid kit is also recommended in the event of a minor accident.

What diet and nutrition?

Like all endurance sports, mountain biking requires you to take care of your diet to optimize your performance. “We never leave empty: it’s a bit like putting gas in a car before a long journey,” laughs the coach.

For morning outings, we recommend a breakfast rich in carbohydrates (bread, cereals) with a low glycemic index (GI) to avoid falling into hypoglycemia during the outing.

 It is essential to hydrate well , but we avoid coffee which is diuretic, and orange juice which is not always well digested,” indicates Pierre Miklic.

For afternoon outings: we favor low GI starchy foods, we avoid dishes rich in fat that take a long time to digest (dishes in sauce, fried foods), we prefer white meats or lean fish, and of course haro sur the alcohol !

And above all, we ideally wait 1h45 to 2 hours after the meal before taking the bike, at the risk of being in the middle of digestion.

The recommendations are approximately the same for the post-exercise recovery meal  : complex carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen stock, and avoid red meats, rich dishes and alcohol, which are rich in toxins and harmful to recovery.