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How Adventure & Extreme Sports Are Good for Your Health

by Carrie Borzillo - November 22 , 2021

Photo Credit: by Carter Moorse,
Photo Credit: by Carter Moorse,

Jumping off a cliff, surfing the big waves, and rock climbing are not just for adrenaline junkies. Sure, adventure sports, a.k.a. action sports, some of which fall in the extreme sports category, might seem like their main purpose is to get your blood pumping for the thrill and excitement of the ultra-adrenaline rush. But there is also health — both physical and mental — benefits to these types of high energy, seemingly risky or even dangerous, outdoor activities.

Of course, there are risks with any activity and more so with extreme or adventurous sports — broken bones, torn ligaments, and sprains to name a few. But some studies, including one published by the National Institutes of Health, conclude that while the risk might outweigh the benefit, “among select segments of the population, adventure sports encourage program adherence and consequently might enhance both mental and physical health more effectively than conventional physical activity.”

A recent study by the European Adventure Index Campaign, the broadband team at Uswitch, has issued a round-up of some of the most popular extreme sports and what the health benefits of each of them are. Here are some of their findings…

Mountain Biking

If you are looking to burn a lot more calories than most workouts offer, and need more Vitamin D in your system, then mountain biking might be for you. The average person can burn up to 680 calories for an hour-long moderate mountain bike ride. That’s a lot more calories burned than an hour of a stationary bike, which burns approximately 483 calories for a 60-minute ride. Of course, as with any exercise, one’s height and weight and the weight of the bike or terrain ridden can factor into the calories burned count.

According to several health experts, other physical health benefits of mountain biking include increased strength, improved immune system, improvement in muscle tone, increased VO2 (which refers to how much oxygen your body can absorb and use during exercise), and more. Many studies show that riding in nature reduces blood pressure, heart rate, salivary cortisol, incidence of type II diabetes and stroke, and cardiovascular issues.

With this being a green activity taking place in nature, there are also the mental health benefits of soaking up the sun. Exercising outdoors gives you a double dose of endorphins that get released by the physical activity of biking coupled with the good feelings one gets of simply being in nature. Additionally, mountain biking is a great way to get more Vitamin D naturally in your system, which helps with overall health, improves sleep cycle, and eases depression, stress, and anxiety.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing can be done at an indoor gym or outside at a designated rock-climbing spot in most national or local parts. The trick to this one is, if you do try this in the great outdoors, you’ll need a professional guide, or an experienced friend, to help you get geared up and to walk you through this somewhat dangerous activity.

Sure, it sounds like a lot of work (and maybe even a tad bit scary), but the benefits are also great. Uswitch tells us that climbing at even just a low to moderate difficulty can burn 400 calories per hour, while a more difficult level of climbing can burn up to 575 calories. Of course, that added Vitamin D bump is the icing on the cake.

What makes this a great exercise is that you use your full body, and every major muscle group is impacted, and it’s not so bad on the joints. “The acts of reaching, stretching, and climbing involved in scaling rock climbing walls can make those who practice 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,” cites the Uswitch report on the European Adventure Index campaign.

Rock climbing is also a great way to battle stress because the sense of accomplishment one feels after scaling a climbing wall or mountain creates a natural feel-good factor and releases the happy hormones of endorphins.


Most don’t think of skydiving as a sport. You just jump out of an airplane and float down in a parachute, right? Not quite. It might not be a traditional sport per se, but it is an adventure activity that surprisingly has health benefits. For example, the act of falling through the air can burn up to 230 calories. It’s the intense adrenaline rush you get when free falling through the sky that helps the body burn more calories faster.

Second, by keeping your body in the outstretched position needed to skydive, you are building up physical strength in your arms and core. Likewise, carrying a 30-pound parachute on your back before jumping is also an exercise in and of itself — think of it as resistance training. After your jump, experts say it can take most novice skydivers up to 40 minutes to pack away their heavy parachutes, which also helps to burn calories not unlike heavy housework or yard work.

The mental health aspects of skydiving are also based on the rush of feel-good emotions one gets from accomplishing such a feat or overcoming a fear of heights in a positive way. Many skydivers describe the experience as life-changing and say that it’s helped them overcome other fears and challenges in life.

Kayaking & Canoeing

Two great low-to-moderate full body workouts in the great outdoors are kayaking and canoeing. It takes a fair amount of sustained upper body strength to paddle through rivers using the natural resistance of the water. Your arms, shoulders, chest, back, and core get an intense workout, which can burn 358 calories per hour while kayaking.

Along with strengthening the aforementioned body parts, studies show that the health benefits of kayaking and canoeing also include improved cardiovascular fitness, reduced risk of wear-and-tear on the joints and tissues, and such mental health benefits as reduced stress, improved mood, and improvement of your overall mental well-being.


Surfing is another adventure sport that you might want to get a lesson or two for or at least go with a buddy who is an experienced surfer to guide you through this not-so-easy activity. But, if you do get into the swing of it, the benefits are great.

Along with getting more Vitamin D and the endorphin rush of being outdoors in the big, beautiful ocean, surfing is also a hell of a workout. The intense paddling to get out far enough to catch a way is a wonderful cardiovascular fitness activity. The paddling part of surfing also helps to strengthen your shoulder and back, but once you get up and catch a way it’s your legs and core getting the workout.


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