Trail Therapy: Getting out in the fresh air

8 January 2024

Winter doesn’t have to be the season for hibernation! Banish the winter blues by getting the kids out on their mountain bikes in the fresh air for some adventure, adrenaline, and a fresh perspective.

Join us as we explore the world of winter mountain biking and discover how riding the trails is a great remedy for seasonal blues.

Introduction to bike trail therapy

Trail therapy, also known as nature therapy or ecotherapy, is a therapeutic approach that involves outdoor activities in natural settings to promote mental, emotional, and physical well-being. This form of therapy recognises the connection between nature and overall health, and it takes advantage of the natural environment's healing properties to improve individuals' well-being.

Understanding the healing effect of trail therapy

Trail therapy is an immersive outdoor experience that fosters a sense of freedom, boosts confidence, and encourages a positive mindset. Trail therapy mountain biking for kids goes beyond the typical physical exercise, providing a holistic approach to mental and emotional health by connecting them with the natural environment while enjoying the thrill of cycling.

In a study by Leeds Beckett University, nearly 90% of the participants agreed that mountain biking makes them feel more connected to nature and the world around them.*

There are a few key elements when understanding the healing effects of trail therapy:

Mindfulness in nature - Trail therapy encourages riders to engage in mindfulness practices while immersed in natural surroundings. This deliberate focus on the present moment, staying alert to the changing terrain, anticipating obstacles, and making split-second decisions, fosters mindfulness, a sense of tranquillity and mental clarity promoting relaxation.

Physical exercise and well-being - The act of mountain biking along trails provides a natural form of physical exercise, negotiating twists, turns and obstacles demands coordination and balance and gives an excellent full-body workout. Regular movement in nature can improve cardiovascular health, boost energy levels, and contribute to overall fitness and increased stamina. Physical well-being, in turn, positively impacts mental health.

Emotional healing - Natural environments have been shown to reduce stress levels and promote emotional healing. Trail therapy provides a space for reflection and introspection, allowing riders to process emotions, gain perspective, and find a sense of inner calm. In the Leeds Beckett University study, over 80% of participants agreed that engaging in mountain biking helps them deal with negative thoughts or feelings.

Connection with the environment - Cycling on trails fosters a deeper connection with the natural world. This connection has been linked to increased feelings of awe, gratitude, and a sense of belonging, all of which contribute to improved mental and emotional resilience.

Social interaction and community building - Engaging in trail therapy can be a communal experience, fostering social interaction and the building of supportive communities. Sharing favourite trails, exchanging tips and experiencing trails can help create social connections and bonds. Group mountain biking provides opportunities for shared experiences, reducing feelings of isolation.

Adrenaline rush and enjoyment - The thrill of riding down a steep descent or conquering a challenging section of trail releases adrenaline and endorphins, promoting a sense of exhilaration and joy that can significantly uplift mood and outlook.

Healthy escape and stress relief - Trail riding offers a healthy escape from daily stressors. It provides a break from routine, allowing riders to immerse themselves in the natural world and temporarily disconnect from the pressures of everyday life. In the Leeds Beckett University study over 90% of participants indicated that they go mountain biking to de-stress.

Improved sleep patterns - Regular physical activity, such as mountain biking, can contribute to better sleep quality. The exertion and mental stimulation from trail riding can aid in achieving deeper and more restful sleep.

Self-confidence and personal growth - Conquering new trails and overcoming challenges on the bike fosters a sense of accomplishment. This, in turn, boosts self-confidence and contributes to personal growth.

In the study by Leeds Beckett University, nearly 90% of participants agreed that mountain biking makes them feel good about who they are.*


Frog Bikes R&D Manager, Kris Kulwicki says “Riding bikes clears the head, it is the best stress relief being one with nature and forgetting all your worries. When you are on the bike, all you have to focus on is the trail ahead, and the sounds of nature.”


Connecting with nature

Trail therapy occurs in natural environments such as forests, mountains, parks, or trails.

The therapy emphasises the importance of connecting with the natural world. Riding through winding trails, across lush forests, and along breathtaking vistas not only exposes kids to fresh air but also helps them develop a sense of appreciation for the environment. Being surrounded by nature can reduce stress levels, improve mood, and boost overall well-being

It’s also beneficial to be away from pollution and encourage kids to be outside more to ensure they enjoy the therapy of their natural surroundings.

As your child navigates the trails on their Frog bike, they'll discover the healing power of nature and the thrill of mountain biking combine to create a unique and transformative experience.

Ben our Frog MTB 69 Ambassador- " I just love being in the woods on my bike. I love being outdoors and playing, it makes me feel happy and free. I get to spend time with my parents and we always laugh. I've made lots of friends through cycling and I’m trying out new trails and courses which is exciting. When I try a hard hill or something technical I feel great after because I did it, it’s the best sense of achievement.” 📷 @benbikes2016

Physical fitness and well-being

In the fast-paced digital age, we believe that it is important to encourage children to get on their bikes and explore nature. It’s great to get on a Frog bike and follow the trails with family and friends and have open conversations whilst connecting with nature.

Frog Bikes Partnerships Manager, Kirsteen says “Riding my bike reminds me of who I am. The freedom, fresh air and being close to nature make me feel amazing.

Escaping my day-to-day life allows me to reset and get the physical activity my body craves. Focusing my mind on riding the trails, and challenging myself to try new routes and descents along the way makes me feel ageless and fearless! (Well, a bit!) There's no better way to get the endorphins flowing and a sense of accomplishment.

Immersing myself in nature on my bike is the best feeling in the world. In the woods I can think and breathe properly, I don't need to check my phone or be distracted by domestic chores I just ride. The feel-good factor lasts several days too so not only is it fun at the time but it leaves me feeling happier for days to come.”

DEVELOPING MOUNTAIN BIKING IN SCOTLAND

The Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS) team has been running a Trail Therapy programme, a social prescription mountain biking programme, for over a year. The programme is designed to help riders grow in confidence, improve social interactions, establish self-regulation skills, and accelerate their road to well-being. As parents and children navigate through the natural landscapes, a range of therapeutic benefits unfolds, contributing to an enhanced sense of overall wellness.

Graeme McLean Head of DMBinS said, “Our Trail Therapy programme is something we are exceptionally proud of. We are delighted to be able to share a short film about the journey of one of the participants who has used mountain biking as a strategy for his recovery.” Click here to view the short film 'Mind over Mountain'>>


EDINBURGH NAPIER UNIVERSITY REPORT

Edinburgh Napier University produced a report as part of Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland’s (DMBinS) programme of work on fostering mental health and wellbeing through mountain biking.

Research by Edinburgh Napier University demonstrates that mountain bikers have “reported copious benefits to mental health and wellbeing related to their engagement” (Roberts et al., 2018).*

“I really enjoyed that aspect of it where you can connect, interact with everyone on your own terms and still sort of get that group activity feel” - Anonymous rider from the programme

The key impacts of participating in the programme were:

  • Building confidence and self-esteem
  • Emotional regulation
  • Improved mood
  • Increased concentration
  • Better resilience
  • Improved decision making
  • Connecting with others
  • Building relationships
  • Improved fitness and health
  • Connecting with the natural environment


Influencers Communing with the Campbells- Frog MTB 62 - “There is no greater feeling in the world than exploring a new trail with one of your kids. Watching Taba explore the world and her boundaries. Watching her build her confidence and stamina. Watching her explore a completely different physical activity. She’s a county gymnast and trains 14 hours a week so to see her enjoying and thriving in a different environment is super cool.”
📷 @communing_with_the_campbells


Remember, cycling is not just physical exercise but also a holistic journey towards mental and emotional balance for kids and families!

Resources

*Why Do You Ride?: A Characterization of Mountain Bikers, Their Engagement Methods, and Perceived Links to Mental Health and Well-Being


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