Why adventure sports are good for your health
There are two types of people – those who think ‘ooooh’ when they hear about adventure sports, and those who think ‘oh GOD no’. Adventure sports are more than just the sports you’d be mad to try (guess which type of person I am?!), they’re a great way of making getting active a whole lot more exciting.
As well as adventure sports being good for your physical health, this type of exercise can have a positive effect on your mental health too. The guys at Uswitch have analysed the health benefits of some of the UK’s most popular action and adventure sports, and here are five adrenaline-fuelled sports that are good for both your body and your mind.
Why adventure sports are good for your health
The average person can burn approximately 680 calories per hour during a moderate mountain bike ride, making it one of the best outdoor activities for losing weight, although this can vary massively depending on bike mass, terrain and the rider’s fitness.
But from increased strength to an improved immune system the physical health benefits of mountain biking are endless.
One of the things that makes mountain biking so beneficial is that it is a ‘green exercise’ meaning that it’s an activity that takes place in nature. Many health professionals regard green exercises as ‘nature’s medicine’ due to the double-dose of endorphins released by the physical activity combined with the feeling of being outdoors.
Additionally, being out in the open all day is a great source of vitamin D as bikers naturally soak up the sun. Although overexposure to sunlight is considered a risk, research shows that 86% of Europeans are actually Vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D is important for your bones, skin and weight management, so mountain biking is a great way to increase your exposure to natural sunlight.
All that Vitamin D naturally increases your body’s melatonin levels. Melatonin is a vital hormone that is responsible for regulating your sleep cycle. Therefore mountain biking during the day can help to improve your sleep at night, resulting in lower stress levels and a positive impact on your mental health.
The Adventure Index campaign has discovered five great mountain biking circuits in the UK ranging from Edinburgh to Gwynedd.
Rock climbing is one of the UK’s most accessible adventure sports, and it’s an excellent way to burn calories.
Even climbing at a low to moderate difficulty can burn 400 calories per hour, and climbing at a more difficult level can burn around 575 calories per hour.
Anyone can get into rock climbing as a low-impact exercise that still provides a full-body workout. It uses every major muscle group, but it’s easier on the joints than most other adventure sports, making it a great alternative to an intense circuit in the gym.
The acts of reaching, stretching and climbing involved in scaling rock climbing walls can make those who practise the sport regularly more flexible. Your insides can also benefit; with the hard work involved in scaling a wall improving the climber’s heart rate, lungs, and stamina.
Rock climbing is proven to be an effective way to battle the effects of chronic stress. The sense of accomplishment after the scaling of a climbing wall creates a natural feel-good factor that helps boost the climber’s mental state.
While there are plenty of indoor rock climbing facilities across the UK, the Adventure Index campaign has located six great outdoor spots for scrambling up mountainsides. UK Climbing has a great tool to find your nearest indoor climbing wall too.
Despite being a low-impact sport, the average person can burn 358 calories per hour while kayaking at a moderate intensity.
The repetitive action of moving the paddle against the natural resistance of the water gives the upper body an intense workout, increasing muscle strength in the back, shoulders, arms and chest. With each paddle stroke forward the torso is rotated, which engages all the core muscles.
Kayakers receive the additional benefit of increased leg strength, caused by applying pressure with your legs each time you turn and balance the kayak.
The environment where kayaking typically takes place is reported to have a calming effect on participants too. Exercising in the ‘blue gym’, surrounded by water and greenery, has been shown to reduce anger and depression, as well as giving your confidence a boost.
There is also a huge social aspect to kayaking, with many of the available classes in the UK involving large groups of people. Kayaking is a great way to make new friends and interact with like-minded people.
Kayaking is one of the most popular adventure sports in the UK, with sites located all over Britain, from Fort William to the Brecon Beacons.
Surprisingly in high season in the UK from September to May, the average person can burn up to 290 calories per hour from recreational surfing, while competitive surfing can burn up to 350 calories per hour.
Surfing is an exciting way to get a full-body workout. Even before you have begun to ride the waves, the act of paddling a surfboard into the water improves your cardiovascular fitness by working the muscles in your back and shoulders. Once you are standing upright on the board, your leg and core strength will be improved.
This aquatic adventure sport is not as easy as it looks and newcomers are advised to invest in lessons to help them get onto their feet. With practice, the key muscles benefited by surfing will grow stronger, which should improve the surfer’s ability to stay upright on the water.
Surfing is a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy the natural environment. It is among the best forms of exercise to deal with stress and combat mental afflictions like PTSD or depression.
The near-primal experience of letting your body become one with the water is both highly sensory and physical, encouraging the body and mind to disconnect from life’s problems.
Research shows that surfing is officially the UK’s most popular outdoor adventure sport, with a whopping 10 sites to be found in Cornwall alone.
The act of falling through the air can actually burn a surprising 230 calories per hour. This is because the physical demand of free falling at 120mph, coupled with an intense adrenaline rush causes the body to burn calories more rapidly.
Your body’s outstretched position whilst diving helps to build up your physical strength in your arms and your core. In fact, skydiving requires your whole body to be done properly.
Carrying a 30+ lb parachute on your back before jumping out of a plane at 10,000ft is just half the battle. Once the jump is completed, it can take most novice skydivers 40 minutes to pack away their heavy parachutes.
Unsurprisingly, first-time jumpers are prone to feeling nervous and anxious when faced with the daunting task of skydiving, but skydiving can actually have positive long term effects on your mental health.
By putting yourself through such a daunting experience, your mind grows more accustomed to stress and finds more natural ways to cope with it.
The majority of people who have skydived describe the experience as life-changing, claiming that taking the ‘big leap’ helps to provide the person with a new perspective that nothing in life is impossible to conquer.
Accomplishing a huge physical feat like skydiving encourages people to conquer the challenges that they face in the real world.
The Adventure Index campaign has located two amazing UK skydiving spots in Norwich and Hull.