Is Cycling Good for Your Joints?
Whether you are using a stationary bike, pedaling around the city, or hitting the trails, cycling is a great exercise to help you get your blood pumping, burn some calories, and work out some of those major muscles. Cycling is considered a low impact exercise, and is often a go-to alternative for those individuals who suffer from hip and knee pain, or are otherwise unable to participate in high impact sports or exercises.
The Low-Impact Benefits of Cycling
Cycling exercises every major muscle in the leg, offers a metabolic boost, and builds lean muscle mass. Choosing to cycle can improve your overall health without a high barrier to entry. Cycling causes less strain on joints, and does not require a high level of skill. It is a great mix of muscle-burning activity and the caloric expenditure that comes with cardiovascular exercise. It can decrease stress levels, improve your posture and coordination, strengthen your legs, improve your overall body composition, improve joint health and mobility, and help manage illnesses such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Cycling can also help promote the health of knee cartilage and support the healing process in patients with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.
With those suffering from arthritis, inactivity can lead to swelling and stiffness in joints that often worsens after long periods without use. The pain of arthritis can cause sufferers to remain inactive, which can accelerate deterioration within the joints and make matters worse. A consistent and gentle cycling regimen can help loosen up these stiff joints and reduce the swelling that is caused by such stagnation, which in turn can help alleviate the pain and slow down degeneration. Even better, stationary cycling can be done indoors during any time of the year and under even the most inclement of weather conditions.
How to Avoid Injury
If you’ve been cycling on a stationary bike, there are a few safeguards to consider if you’re planning to transition to a regular street or mountain bike. If you have balance or stability issues, or you experience any knee pain during gentle stationary rides, remaining on a stationary bike for the near future is the safest alternative to getting out on the road.
Once you are stable enough to comfortably cycle on a road or mountain bike, it’s important to ensure that it is adjusted properly for your body. The correct saddle height will also prevent you from unnecessarily straining your hips or knees. If your saddle is too high, you will notice that your hips rock from side to side while you are pedaling. If the saddle is too low, your knee will bend past a 5-10% angle when your pedal is at its lowest position. Adjust your seat appropriately to avoid these two conditions and find the comfortable intermediary position that’s right for you. You may want to investigate having your bike custom fit to your body – a service that many bike shops offer.
As with any activity, it’s important to not overdo your exercise regimen. Whether you remain on
a stationary bike or you make the transition to cycling in the great outdoors, be mindful to start slowly and ease into the adjustment. Start with short sessions at a slow, easy pace and gradually increase them over time to allow your body to adjust by strengthening muscles and increasing endurance.
Cycling can be a wonderful, low-impact way to get in your exercise without placing undue pressure on your joints. If you have arthritis or injuries, cycling can be a beneficial addition to a maintenance or rehabilitation program. Whether you are exercising indoors or out, supplementing your physical fitness routine with a healthy amount of cycling can help you keep your body and your joints in excellent shape.