Updated: Feb 9
Motorcyclists who ride every day will tell you they feel great. The positive health benefits of riding include mental relaxation, mild cardio exercise and a full body resistance workout. Riding a motorcycle is a low impact exercise. Riding for just 30 minutes has the same health benefits as going for a jog or completing a round of golf. As a low impact, calorie-burning exercise, motorcycling can even help to promote weight loss. When you ride a motorcycle, you have burned approximately the same calories as a brisk walk, around 200-300 calories/hour depending on your weight. That's a burger and fries (about a thousand calories) every three hours.
The muscle use and energy required to maneuver a motorcycle help make your abdominal muscles stronger too. This is because riders must use their bodies to help safely balance and steer. This demands use of nearly every muscle, which, over time, improves muscle tone. Operating a motorcycle requires you to use your knees and thighs, but without straining them too much. You rely on your legs to change your body position and help control the bike, so this strength training increases both stability and endurance. Over time, you'll build muscle while eliminating any pains.
As we get older our hips and our knees start to give us some trouble. The lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC) is a region of the body that has a massive influence on the structures above and below it. The LPHC has between 29 and 35 muscles that attach to the lumbar spine or pelvis. The LPHC is directly associated with both the lower extremities and upper extremities of the body. Core muscles support our spine, hips, and shoulders, giving us the strength for good posture when riding a motorcycle. If your back, neck, or shoulders are achy after the first ride of the spring, this is a sure sign you need to work on your core.
But what about the mental benefits of riding? A Neurobiological Study finds “Riding a Motorcycle Can Decrease Stress and Improve Mental Focus.” The study at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, at the University of California, Los Angeles, seems to confirm that. The study funded by Harley-Davidson Inc., demonstrated potential mental and physical benefits of riding, including decreased levels of cortisol, a hormonal marker of stress. The study found that riding a motorcycle decreased hormonal biomarkers of stress by an impressive 28%. Riding also increased alertness, similar to the effect of drinking a cup of coffee.
The scientists at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior recorded the brain activity, heart rate, and hormone levels of more than 50 experienced motorcyclists before, during, and after riding a motorcycle, driving a car, and resting. The reduction of cortisol means your body is in an anabolic state and ready to improve and repair.
“The differences in participants’ neurological and physiological responses between riding and other measured activities were quite pronounced,” said Dr. Don Vaughn, one of the neuroscientists behind the study. “This could be significant for mitigating everyday stresses.”
So the next time you are riding, you can feel great knowing you are not only enjoying the ride, but making good gains.
John “Wyld Stile” Larson