Mountain biking not that extreme, worth trying for the health benefits

PERTH, Australia — Mountain biking can get extreme, but that’s certainly not always the case. Researchers from Curtin University find that mountain biking is not the dangerous, injury-plagued sport it can sometimes seem to be. After analyzing injuries sustained by trail users, study authors say mountain biking and hiking aren’t just for thrill-seekers. Moreover, they encourage those who have been hesitant in the past to give mountain biking a try. The potential health benefits far outweigh the risks.

The research team analyzed a dataset encompassing dozens of prior studies conducted all over the world. All in all, they studied a total of 220,935 injured mountain bikers and 17,757 injured hikers in this project. Researchers initially set out to determine the types of injuries and affected body areas most common among trail users.

Lead study author and PhD candidate Paul Braybrook, from Curtin’s School of Nursing, adds that mountain bikers primarily suffer injuries to their upper limbs – mostly resulting in bruises, scratches, and mild cuts. Meanwhile, hikers on foot were more prone to injuring their legs and ankles, consequently developing mostly blisters and ankle sprains.

“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,” Mr. Braybrook says in a media release.

“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.”

Man mid-air on a mountain bike
Man mid-air on a mountain bike (Photo by Nathanaël Desmeules on Unsplash)

“As the popularity of both pursuits has increased, so too has the standard of trails, bikes, footwear and protective gear, reducing the risk of serious injury,” Braybrook continues. “In the case of mountain biking there has also been a cultural shift from the more extreme or ‘radical’ style of riding synonymous with the sport when it first evolved decades ago in places like Colorado and California.”

In summation, the study concludes the risk of injury tied to either mountain biking or hiking is far outweighed by the considerable health benefits such activities can offer.

“Mountain biking and hiking bring economic gains through tourism and the obvious health benefits of physical activity including improvements in cardiovascular health and reducing the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, high blood cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes,” Mr. Braybrook concludes.

“With Spring weather upon us, people should take the opportunity to regularly head out to their nearest trail for a ride or hike – these are fun activities, great for fitness and with only the occasional scratch or bruise likely to result.”

The study is published in PLoS ONE.

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John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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