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Dirt bikes are an endless well of good times. This isn’t up for debate. As surely as the sun rises, riding dirt bikes will make you smile. However, dirt bikes replacing the gym as the best way to lose weight and get in shape? This might feel like a stretch, but is it? If you’ve ever ridden a dirt bike on a motocross track or on some tough trails, you understand how much strength and endurance a hard ride can require. Well, science backs this up, too. 

What is the best activity for losing weight and getting in shape? 

People riding dirt bikes on access roads
Endure bike ride | Getty images

I bought a Suzuki DR 650 in the early summer of this year. I have ridden motorcycles most of my life, but off-road riding was/is new to me. I was on a rip yesterday on my heavy dual sport when I suddenly realized my quads and shoulders were burning like I was at the gym. By the end of the miles of large gravel along the railroad tracks where I was riding, I had to hop off and take a breather. It was hard work, full stop. 

I decided to look into how many calories you can burn on a hard ride. The figures were pleasantly surprising.

There are many ways to raise your heart rate, burn calories, and build muscle. Some of the most common ways to lose weight are swimming, running, lifting weights, and playing various other sports. However, these activities can feel a little boring for some of us. If you want an alternative way to lose weight and get in shape, you might consider riding a dirt bike.

We don’t tend to think of driving something as a healthy activity, but riding dirt bikes can be an excellent activity for weight loss. 

How many calories do you burn riding a dirt bike? 

According to MD Anderson Center, raising your heart rate is a key part of getting in shape. “Getting your heart to beat faster trains your body to move oxygen and blood to your muscles more efficiently, helps you burn more calories, and lowers your cholesterol. All of this can help you stay healthy and lower your cancer risk.” 

While calculating calorie burn rate can be tough depending on age, activity, weight, and so on, the general consensus is that riding a dirt bike hard for one hour can burn up to 400 calories. To compare, running a mile generally burns 100 calories. So, an hour on the bike – having the time of your life – will burn as many calories as running four miles. 

How else do we burn fat and get in better shape? 

Getting healthy isn’t just about burning fat. Building muscle is just as important for overall fitness. Muscles not only make us stronger and more capable, but they also burn fat and protect our joints from injury. Riding dirt bikes is a great way to build lean muscle. If my shoulder soreness is any indication, it requires a lot of strength to hold on to the handlebars when you are ripping hard on a bike that wants to throw you off and terrain that wants to buck your bike to the ground. Riding a dirt bike uses your hands, forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulders, back, legs, and core. It is truly a full-body workout. This kind of workout is tough to achieve in most other activities. 

How is riding a motorcycle good for your mental health?

2009 Suzuki DR650 on a trail
Suzuki DR650 | MotorBiscuit: Peter Corn

This is arguably the best part of riding dirt bikes. When you are pushing hard on an ever-changing trail ripe with ruts, roots, sticks, rocks, and any other manner of things that want to put you off the bike, you have to be laser-focused. This focus allows a break from things like depression and anxiety while also strengthing your ability to focus and execute the simple tasks it requires to ride a bike safely. Modern mental health professionals will suggest finding ways to do all these things for those struggling with depression and anxiety. 

Riding motorcycles won’t fix everything, but it might get you closer than you think

Look, riding a dirt bike isn’t going to fix everything. In fact, it is a pretty dangerous activity. The reality is you might get hurt doing it. Lord knows I have. But any steps you take toward better physical and mental health are a good thing. Ripping trails, racing, and putting along fire roads alone can’t do it all, but it can change your world if you pair it with healthy eating, good company, and professional help if needed. 

Motorcycles have caught a bad rap for nearly as long as the market has existed. So much of the “biker” reputation is well-earned. However, these little danger machines, with proper gear, training, and attitude, can change you for the better. They can make you stronger both physically and mentally. They get you outside and can take you deep into this world’s most beautiful places. The best part is all of that medicine goes down easy because riding a dirt bike is one of the most fun things in the universe. 

Anxiety and Depression are serious illnesses. If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). If you are located outside the United States, call your local emergency line immediately.