Good news! The "first ever comprehensive probe of the fitness and health benefits of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and off-road motorcycle (ORM) recreational riding" proves riding is as good as it feels.
Conducted over several years by the York University Faculty of Health, co-supported by the Government of Nova Scotia and 3 riding associations, the study began with a meticulous countrywide survey to determine the 'typical' rider.
That was the entire first phase of this huge experiment.
Then researchers observed 128 riders, divided into 6 groups: 3 age classifications, male and female. After modifying these riders' equipment, they could measure physical effects: heart rate; oxygen consumption; muscle fatigue and exertion, etc.
Riding an off-road vehicle requires genuine and serious physical effort. According to Canadian government fitness standards, it should positively affect your health.
While riding, riders' use of oxygen increased by 3.5 to 6 times their level at rest. That's 600% more! And according to standards set by the American College of Sports Medicine, that constitutes moderately intense physical activity.
That same moderate intensity taxes the heart and fatigues the muscles. How much? About the same amount as those other individual sports you take at your own pace, like skiing, golf or climbing.
A typical ATV ride was 2-3 hours; ORM was 1-2 hours. The amount of work required in the upper body and arms, if practiced regularly, was enough to increase muscle and skeletal fitness. And how regularly did they need to ride to begin realizing that increase? Just once or twice a week!
Researchers also noticed the emotional high that fit people always talk about: "enhanced quality of life and stress reduction". This surprised no riders.