The Scottish Borders is home to some of the most exhilarating and scenic mountain biking in the world. And now, the area’s rugged cross-country trails and gripping downhill tracks are being used to examine the benefits that mountain biking has on mental health.

mountain biking
Image: Jamie Taylor

In the summer of 2018, a six-week piloted programme saw 10 participants embark on mountain bike rides in Glentress Forest as part of a “therapeutic recovery programme” for people experiencing mental health issues. The programme was set up by Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS) with Scottish Borders Health and Social Care Partnership’s Galashiels Resource Centre and Edinburgh Napier University.

Participants were provided with bikes before beginning the rides, which were led by qualified guides. Additional support was provided from resource centre staff who would “reinforce individual strategies” for participants to help them “manage their own challenges and difficulties.”

DMBinS wanted to understand if mountain biking could aid in recovering from a period of mental health problems and then take any of the lessons learned from this programme across Scotland.

“Every week we went away buzzing from the enjoyment that everyone was getting from the rides,” said DMBinS project manager Graeme McLean.

Robert McCulloch-Graham, Chief Officer of Scottish Borders Health and Social Care Partnership, said the project was “hugely innovative and exciting” and seemed to have been beneficial.

“It certainly seems to have been one of the best-attended programmes the partnership has delivered, with staff reporting an exceptional response from everyone taking part,” said McCulloch-Graham in a statement.

“Not only did [staff] find it useful to be able to work with participants in a real-life setting, but they were also able to observe some genuine progress being made in terms of personal resilience, self-efficacy, social skills and confidence.

“We look forward to seeing the project evaluation that is available and what potential there might be for the initiative to be available elsewhere in Scotland in the future.”

8 of the Best Mountain Biking Events in Ireland in 2019

The initiative will be evaluated, in part, by sports psychologist Tony Westbury of Edinburgh Napier University and the Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland.

“We think this is a fantastic programme and through our observations, we can see that the participants really enjoyed mountain biking and the experience provided by DMBinS,” said Westbury.

Experts are currently studying the impact of the programme in order to see how it could be improved and administered in the future.

 

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By Brianne Doherty

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