How mountain biking makes us smarter.


Forget Countdown, crosswords and quizzes; all we need to do is ride. Improved spatial memory, thinking skills, attention and decision making.

Sex, dark chocolate, Omega-3’s and exercise are all ways to grow brain cells (or neurogenesis as the men in the white coats call it). There’s only so much omega-3 and dark chocolate we can have though, so it’s good to hear that mountain biking has got us covered.

While our muscles obviously get a workout every time we ride, our brains are also a hive of activity, constantly making split second decisions to avoid obstacles, choose new lines and think ahead. The average human makes around 35,000 conscious decisions per day, let alone the subconscious ones; so you can imagine how many more we’ll make when we hit the trails.

All this extra stimulation on the bike helps the brain to grow, develop new pathways and work more efficiently. “Aerobic exercise triggers the growth of brain cells,” sports scientist Will Harrison explains. “It happens because there is an increase in blood flow and nutrients to the brain, which happens when our heart rate speeds up to meet demand.” So whether it be a lung-busting hill or a sphincter-tightening descent, we’ll be triggering the growth of brain cells at the same time. Mountain biking won’t make us a genius overnight, but in the long term it can actually improve all round brain health.

Mind over muddy matter

It’s all very well being able to grow cells, but what does that actually make your brainier? Mountain biking specifically grows cells in the areas responsible for spatial memory, learning, thinking skills, attention and decision making A healthier brain can help us to learn new skills faster, fight off all those nasty diseases in later life and we’ll be more productive; whether it be work or play. Just don’t blame us when you find yourself able to pay close attention to things like the shipping forecast.

How does this relate back to the trails?

Will explains that this even goes full circle, “When we relate this back to mountain biking, it’ll mean we’re able to better navigate trees and roots, keep focused on a tricky downhill and pick up new techniques more quickly”.

So there you have it; a valid excuse to head out onto the trails knowing you’re becoming that little bit smarter. For once, we’ve found something that isn’t too good to be true.

As posted on www.mbr.co.uk

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