How mountain biking can boost your memory


Are you back to the daily grind and feeling the need to up your game? Perhaps a memory upgrade would help! Studies show that your working memory – which helps you understand things and remember better – can be improved through dynamic exercises.

Do you find multi-tasking difficult and draining? Improving your working memory can help. Researchers have found that time spent performing tasks like balancing on a beam, carrying awkward weights, and navigating around obstacles can improve your working memory by around 50%.

The results of the study, which was published in Perceptual and Motor Skills, suggest improvements can be made in just a few hours of these physical exercises. While any kind of exercise is beneficial, the ones the researchers focused on are ‘dynamic activities,’ which are ones that require you to control your body while processing new information.

These activities can dramatically boost your working memory

“It’s the same sense that helps you know whether your arm is by your side or up in front of you when your eyes are closed. Dynamic activities force the memory to work harder and to continually update its model of the world as the terrain and environments change.”

Exercise both your body and brain by mountain biking

So what’s the big deal with working memory, anyway? Well, it’s largely responsible for reasoning, comprehension, learning, and updating memories – so pretty integral to being able to function effectively on a daily basis. One of the study’s researchers, Dr Ross Alloway, concluded: “This research suggests that by doing activities that make us think, we can exercise our brains as well as our bodies.”

Mountain biking easily falls into the category of dynamic exercise: having to move yourself and your bike around obstacles, not to mention moving yourself around your bike, activates those parts of your brain that stimulate improved memory. So just concentrating on staying steady on your bike is not just keeping you from crashing, but strengthening your neural pathways too.

Unlike slogging on a step machine or treadmill, mountain biking requires you to continually adjust a changing terrain, slope and speed. On a bike that moves irregularly, your brain, muscles, senses and nervous system all need to work together to keep your balance and coordination.

5 tips to get you ready for your first mountain bike race

Mountain biking, both alone and in a group, is a thrilling sport that offers satisfying challenges at every level. If all this is tempting you to experience the rush yourself, why not sign up for a race to give yourself a goal to work towards and motivate yourself to train regularly. Here are Mari’s top tips to help you prepare for your first race:

  • Get the right gear: Get a professional mountain bike and have it adjusted to fit your body, so you’re not putting unnecessary strain on your knees, back, shoulders and neck as you ride. A bike you feel secure on is key to your performance, so have yours thoroughly tested before a race to check the bolts are tight enough, your tire pressure is suitable and the thread gives you grip and speed. Make sure your other equipment like helmet and shoes are in order too.
  • Scope it out: If possible, study the course in advance so you can prepare yourself mentally. This can help you plan your moves and anticipate bottlenecks on a long a narrow track.
  • Practice refuelling: Check where the feeding stations are and plot the best places to eat or drink – longish, flat sections where you can safely take your hands off the handlebars. Practice doing this and experiment with foods and drinks that are easy to consume and that won’t leave you feeling sluggish.
  • Warm up well: Before the race, you should warm up for at least 20 minutes (until your body’s temperature rises) and conserve that heat until you actually set off, so that oxygenated blood is flowing all around your body by then.
  • Pace yourself: Remember that mountain bike is an endurance sport, not a sprint. It’s easy to get caught up in the sheer joy of riding that you use up too much energy during the first half of the race. The lap function on a GPS-enabled fitness device can help you set a sensible pace and finish strong.

Mountain biking is a wonderful way to get active while also spending quality time in nature. While it’s important to keep your eyes on the road, remember to take it all in and enjoy yourself too – the experience will leave you yearning for more!

Get cash back on a road or mountain bike with Vitality

Eyeing a beauty of a bike, but hesitating at the price? Vitality Active Rewards is here to motivate you. When you activate our Bike Booster benefit, you can get up to 25% cash back on a qualifying mountain or road bike purchased from Cycle Lab.

There’s a wide range of mountain and road bikes available – check our list of qualifying brands to find your favourite one. And remember – if you’re a Team Vitality Cycling member, you can activate Bike Booster in the Discovery app, at no extra cost!

Join Team Vitality to enjoy a VIP club experience at races

Join Team Vitality and get 50% cash back on registration entry fees for selected events. You will also receive a Team Vitality starter pack with great race gear and vouchers. Even more rewarding is that you'll have access to our VIP hospitality at certain events on the Team Vitality race calendar, simply by wearing your Team Vitality race gear at these events. Get the full scoop and sign up here.

Get up to 75% cash back on your Vitality-linked heart rate fitness device

Achieve your monthly Vitality Active Rewards goals to get cash back on a brand new fitness device. Activate Device Booster and get up to 75% total cash back on your qualifying heart rate fitness device purchased from your preferred HealthyGear partner: Sportsmans Warehouse or Totalsports.

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