“You don’t think it’s therapy - but it really is"

Six weeks of mountain biking prescribed as part of a therapeutic recovery programme for people currently experiencing mental ill health.

>>> It’s time to talk about mountain biking and mental health

Quotes from participants

  • “It’s just the feeling of the wind in your hair.”
  • “I woke up this morning feeling rubbish, now – after mountain biking – I am feeling good about myself and ready for the week.”
  • “I had a crap weekend, but I am back smiling now.”
  • “You don’t think it’s therapy – but it really is – and it really works for me.”

Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS) with Scottish Borders Health and Social Care Partnership’s, Galashiels Resource Centre and Edinburgh Napier University recently ran a highly successful and innovative pilot programme in the Scottish Borders which utilised a six week block of mountain biking as part of a therapeutic recovery programme for people currently experiencing mental ill health.

There was an identified need within the service, driven by the clients, to provide a therapeutic approach within a non-clinical environment to promote the use of self-management skills to improve their physical and mental health. Given the superb selection of natural and manmade trails and associated facilities in the Scottish Borders, mountain biking was seen as the ideal activity to meet their needs.

The project ran from August-September 2018 and saw the ten participants travelling from across the Borders to the internationally renowned mountain biking centre at Glentress near Peebles.

Participants were supplied with bikes and helmets from Alpine Bikes store at Glentress before embarking on a two hour mountain bike ride by led qualified leaders from DMBinS with additional support from other local volunteers. Gala Resource Centre staff were also on hand throughout the session to reinforce individual strategies that each person could use to manage their own challenges and difficulties

Graeme McLean, DMBinS, Project Manager, said: “This was an amazing pilot to be involved with. Every week we went away buzzing from enjoyment everyone was getting from the rides.

“We were keen to help this programme to happen by delivering the weekly sessions. We wanted to understand if mountain biking aided people’s recovery from a period of mental ill health, how we as leaders could learn from the experience and, using our role within mountain biking in Scotland, how we could take these learnings and spread them across Scotland.”

Robert McCulloch-Graham, Chief Officer Health and Social Integration for the Partnership, added: “This was a hugely innovative and exciting project and I am delighted to hear that our clients found it to be so 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. Not only did they find it useful to be able to work with participants in a real life setting, they were also able to observe some genuine progress being made in terms of personal resilience, self-efficacy, social skills and confidence.

“Our thanks go to DMBinS for their support in enabling us to provide our clients with this opportunity. We look forward to seeing the project evaluation when that is available and what potential there might be for the initiative to be available elsewhere in Scotland in the future.”

The pilot programme will also be evaluated by world renowned sports psychologist, Tony Westbury of Edinburgh Napier University and Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland. Tony said: “We think this a fantastic programme and through our observations we can see that the participants really enjoyed mountain biking and the experience provided by DMBinS. We will be studying the impact of the programme from the participants’ perspective and also collecting the learnings from the leaders and occupational therapists involved into how the programme could be developed, improved and escalated into the future.”

The partners involved in the programme are investigating future options for rolling out the programme.