If your body is frail, it’s not likely to be wise to go throwing yourself down a gnarly downhill trail – but in fact many forms of mountain biking can be excellent exercise for people of all ages, even right into their 70s.
After only really getting into riding bikes in a big way when I was 24, I’ve often wished I had gotten into it sooner in life.
But life can’t be focused on looking backwards – the moment right now, and what is possible next are just too good not to focus on!
Over the years I’ve had countless amazing experiences out on the mountain bike since I started.
I’m now moving towards the next phase – hitting the trails with my little daughter, who is just starting to tentatively ride her Commencal balance bike!
I have no intention of stopping riding mountain bikes until I absolutely cannot (hopefully several decades away at this point).
I mean 40 is the new 30 after all… right?!
Thankfully it is commonplace for people into their late sixties to be out riding around mountain bike trails – though I definitely see fewer older folk hitting the bike park.
There are numerous pros (and a few cons) to riding as we age, as far as I can see.
Anyone who’s gone mountain biking in hills or mountains before will be able to tell you what a full on workout it is for heart and lungs.
Getting the blood pumping and lungs working powerfully is one of the key reasons I’m as fit as I’ve ever been, and intend on staying that way as I get older.
Strength and conditioning
Turns out that riding bikes is not just fun, it’s a workout for a huge number of muscles throughout our bodies.
Every part of the legs gets a solid boost in strength and conditioning from a full on ride, no surprises there you might think – but it’s also the glutes, core, stablisers, arms, shoulders, chest, forearms, grip strength.
I always feel so thrashed (yet stoked) after a full on day at the bike park.
As I get a lot older, sure I might need to dial back some of the higher risk features or speeds – but keeping fit and strong is bound to keep me enjoying my life more for longer.
Mental alertness and reactions
It’s not only the body that gets pushed to the limits by the sport of mountain biking.
The mind is also a vital element when you’re flying down a trail.
Constantly scanning the trail and surroundings and making split second decisions non stop – what to ride over, risk vs reward, the best path to take, reacting fluidly to a constant stream of situations.
This is sure to help keep the mind sharp as we age, in my opinion.
Perhaps being so used to split second reactions could help us avoid injury in later life too?
I’ll let you know when I’m still shredding 30 years from now 😀
They say stress is a killer.
I don’t doubt that for a second.
It’s always going to be a part of life. Jobs can be a big contributer, as can financial issues, relationships, you name it.
So finding effective *healthy* ways to destress is vital.
That is without question, and is certainly not just my take on things – numerous studies have clearly shown that things such as vigorous exercise (and ensuing release of dopamine) are highly beneficial at reducing the the stress hormone Cortisol, lowering blood pressure, and the list goes on.
I’ve always found mountain biking to be one of the best ways to forget my worries and de-stress, and I’m sure it will continue to be as the years go by.
For a vastly populated world with endless effortless communication methods on hand at all times, life can get surprisingly isolated or even lonely at times.
Sometimes this can be fine, but I think it’s also pretty important to have some awesome social experiences too.
Meeting up with a group of friends to ride MTB trails (and definitely have a post-ride beverage!) is just so good.
Laughs are guaranteed to be had.
Progress made, challenges stepped up to. All that good stuff.
And again, as we age we’re likely to go through different phases of all of this.
Groms and teenagers likely have huge groups of riding buddies they always hang out with.
Twenty-somethings might have a tight riding crew.
Thirty-somethings could very well have kids in the mix, and a significant other who is the main companion (and yes some times it’s definitely needed and healthy to step away and have a laugh with your friends).
Fourty-somethings might have a higher stress job, and one or two riding mates to meet up with.
As we continue on beyond this we could easily find ourselves with no fellow riders unless we make a point of keeping our mountain biking friendships and catchups a focus.
Shred on I say!
But it’s not all sunshine and lollipops.
Mountain biking is after all an extreme sport, and part of it’s appeal is the adrenaline caused by the risk factor.
So let’s take a look at what the main cons to riding mountain bikes into your later years are…
Risk of injury
It’s ever present when we are out on the trail – that’s why we get so focused, in a flow state watching every detail of the trail ahead, making split second decisions to maximize fun, and to keep us intact.
Technology to help keep us safe on the bike is always improving, so as we age we can take advantage of that – better helmets, protective kneeguards with D30 inserts that change their state on impact, and so on.
It will keep improving no doubt, just as the capability in medicine to repair any damage sustained will do over the years.
But it is certainly something everyone needs to make their own decision about, finding their acceptable level of risk vs reward when it comes to an exciting yet somewhat dangerous sport.
Pushing the body too far
This con is actually quite linked to one of the most notable Pro’s – that of the heavy duty workout of the heart and lungs caused by energetic mountain biking.
While it’s certainly beneficial to maintain a level of exercise and fitness as we age, we also have to accept that our bodies over time are not likely to recover as quickly, and vital things like our hearts sometimes don’t react well to being pushed too far beyond what they regularly cope with.
Something I guess we all need to be mindful of as we get into those golden years, and your own doctor could no doubt provide some great advice about what the levels of exertion that you should be challenging yourself would be.
Once you’re armed with this knowledge, it seems like a good idea to use one of the many different smart watches to monitor heartrate etc while riding.
It’s something I’ll do once I reach that age range for sure (but right now I don’t even wear a regular watch).
Definitely tongue in cheek – but I’m pretty sure someone obsessed with mountain biking and in their late 60’s would find it difficult to get overly excited with a bunch of golf talk in their social circles.
And for that matter, equally deflating being met with glazed expressions in response to their stories of wild mountain biking adventures.
This is something even riders in their twenties and thirties can start to run into pretty regularly, so it will only increase into the later years.
And hey, maybe time to find some other rad new friends? 😀