If you’re new to fitness or have a newly diagnosed condition, it can be challenging to choose the best workout routine for your body. Cycling is a popular exercise choice for its numerous benefits, but it may not be for everyone. In this post, we’ll discuss what weight-bearing exercise is, if cycling is a weight-bearing exercise, and what health conditions cycling could be a good option for.
What is Weight-Bearing Exercise?
Weight-bearing exercise (or weight-bearing physical activity) is any type of exercise that requires the body to support its weight against gravity. These exercises are performed on your feet and require your muscles and bones to work together in resisting gravity which helps to stimulate bone growth and increase bone density. High-impact weight-bearing exercises help build strong bones, and low-impact weight-bearing exercises are a safe alternative if you cannot do high-impact exercises.
Examples of high-impact weight-bearing exercises include:
- Jumping Rope
- Stair Climbing
Examples of low-impact weight-bearing exercises include:
- Using elliptical training machines
- Low-impact aerobics
- Speed walking outside or on a treadmill
People at risk for bone loss or that have osteoporosis may seek weight-bearing exercises to help slow the progression of bone degeneration and improve bone health overall. It’s important to note that weight-bearing exercises should be assessed on a situational basis. If you’re someone with osteoporosis or bone degeneration, you should speak with a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise program.*
Is Cycling a Weight-Bearing Exercise?
While cycling can be rigorous and demanding, it is not a weight-bearing exercise. Unlike weight-bearing exercises like running, jogging, or jumping, cycling involves sitting on a bike seat and pedaling, which does not put direct pressure on the joints and bones of the lower body.
If you’re considering if cycling is or could be a good sport for you, reflect on your unique health needs. If you have osteoporosis or bone degeneration, you should consider supplementing cycling with strength training and weight-bearing exercises to make sure that you’re not furthering your condition.* If you’re not at risk for osteoporosis or bone degeneration, cycling should pose little risk to your overall health.
What Health Conditions can Cycling be a Good Option for?
Cycling is a great exercise for individuals that have joint pain or mobility issues, as it is low-impact and does not put as much stress on your joints compared to running or activities with jumping. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions. They can help determine if cycling is appropriate for you, and how you can safely incorporate it into your fitness routine.
Arthritis isn’t a single disease, it refers to joint pain that can be caused by more than 100 different conditions. Common symptoms include swelling, stiffness, and a diminished range of motion in the joints. Arthritis can result in chronic pain and permanent joint changes. According to the Arthritis Foundation, cycling is one of the most effective workouts for people with arthritis. Joseph Gary, MD & associate professor at the University of Minnesota says, “The more the joint moves through its full range of motion, the more synovial fluid is produced. This lubricates the joint so you move more easily the rest of the day.”
A herniated disk is a fragment of the disk nucleus (center) that is pushed out into the spinal canal, often resulting in intense pain. Cycling can improve spinal strength and the health and lubrication of your spinal disks. Cycling is less jarring to the spine than many other forms of cardio exercise. Depending on the state of someone’s herniated disk, spin classes and stationary biking can provide an intense workout with minimal stress to the spine.
There are many causes for knee pain, but cycling can improve knee joint health in many ways. Cycling can support the knee joint by stretching it gently and easing the movement of the joint while strengthening the muscles around the knee. It’s important to remember that cycling still impacts the knee in small ways, and may not be suitable for some depending on their condition.
Cycling is an effective and time-efficient way to burn fat. According to Harvard Medical School, cycling can burn more calories than weight lifting, yoga, or walking in the same duration of time. Because excess weight can have negative impacts on the bones and joints already, cycling can help put less strain on the bones and joints of obese people.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way your body turns food into energy. With diabetes, your body does not create as much insulin as it should, and too much blood sugar can stay in the bloodstream. Cycling can improve insulin sensitivity, lead to weight loss (therefore diminishing this risk factor), improve cardiovascular health, and reduce stress. These benefits can positively impact those who struggle with diabetes.
Contact Idaho Sports Medicine Institute today if you’d like to see if cycling is a good fit for you and your health conditions. We also offer bike fitting services so your ride can be safe, comfortable, and aligned with your body.
*Please always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.