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World Bicycle Day 2022: Cycling And Arthritis; Are There Any Benefits? Is Indoor Or Outdoor Cycling Better?

3 June is observed as World Bicycle Day by the United Nations' general assembly. The day aims to recognise the bicycle's uniqueness, longevity, and versatility, which has been a mode of transportation for centuries now.

The resolution was adopted with the unanimous support of all 193 members of the UN, following grassroots campaigns led by Professor Leszek Sibilski that won support from Turkmenistan and 56 additional countries that co-sponsored the resolution.

Every day, our body requires at least thirty minutes of physical activity, which is also essential for mental and emotional well-being. Cycling is one of the easiest means to prevent the onset of risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle. It is a healthy, low-impact exercise that people of all ages can enjoy.

Cycling And Arthritis: Are There Any Benefits?

Autoimmune arthritis is defined as a group of different types of arthritis. Arthritis is a condition in which the muscles around the joints of the body, such as knees, back, wrists, fingers, etc., get inflamed and stiffen, causing pain and restricted movement. This condition is mostly seen in people above 60 and can worsen as they age [1][2].

There are over 100 types of arthritis. Different types cause different symptoms, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis are among the most common types of autoimmune arthritis.

For those with arthritis, bicycling is an excellent form of exercise. Bicycling regularly allows your knees to move through their full range of motion while at the same time strengthening the muscles that support your knees.

Studies indicate cycling may reduce arthritis symptoms. For example, a study published in the Journal of Rheumatology found that cycling and swimming significantly reduced joint pain, stiffness, and physical limitations and significantly improved the quality of life in middle-aged and older adults with osteoarthritis (OA). Another study indicated that patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who exercised on stationary bikes regularly improved their aerobic fitness and blood pressure and reported fewer tender joints [3].

The benefits of cycling for arthritis

1. Less joint stress

Cycling is a low-impact exercise, meaning that it does not put stress on weight-bearing joints such as hips, knees, and feet. Additionally, the movement helps to lubricate the joints, reducing stiffness and pain [4].

2. Weight control

Inflammatory arthritis can be exacerbated by excess body weight and increasing pressure on the joints, particularly the knees. Cycling is a good way to eliminate unwanted fat from the body. It exercises the muscles of the thighs and buttocks. It also increases your metabolic rate, thus reducing your belly fat. An hour of cycling can burn many calories and speed up the weight loss process [5].

3. Adjustable intensity

Bicycle riding can be performed at various intensities. For those who like to go a little slower, you can coast once in a while or use lower gears to ease the strain on your legs. There is evidence that low-intensity cycling is just as effective as high-intensity cycling at improving function and gait, reducing pain, and boosting aerobic fitness in individuals with knee osteoarthritis [6].

4. Muscle strengthening

When the bike's pedal resistance is moderate, your hips, knees, and quadriceps (on the front of your thighs) are encouraged to move freely and are also strengthened. In addition, by pedalling, you exercise your glutes and hamstrings (on the back of your thigh) to a lesser extent. Healthy muscles support and protect your joints [7].

Is Indoor Or Outdoor Cycling A Better Option For People With Arthritis

Unless balance is an issue, indoor and outdoor cycles have excellent advantages [8]. For example, indoor cycling offers adjustable resistance options and a climate-controlled environment. As a result, people with balance problems may find it safer to ride indoor bikes. Indoor bikes can also provide aerobic exercise for people who cannot walk. On the other hand, outdoor cycling presents a change of scenery and naturally variable resistance.

How to choose an indoor bike with arthritis

Stationary bicycles are similar to traditional outdoor bicycles. However, they are equipped with handles, pedals, and a small bicycle seat, all mounted on a stationary platform. In some stationary bicycles, the handles are lower, which requires the rider to lean forward. This may be uncomfortable for you if you have arthritis in your neck, back, or upper extremities.

The seat of a stationary recumbent bike is larger and similar to that of a chair. As you sit back into the frame in a more comfortable, reclined position, these bikes are easier on your lower back and hips [9].

The best way to determine which bike is right for you is to ride each at your gym to discover which feels most comfortable. Then, consult your trainer for assistance in setting up the seat correctly.

How to choose an outdoor bike with arthritis

Ensure you have the right fit by taking your bike to a local bike shop. A professional can also recommend adjustments to accommodate your condition. For example, you may feel more comfortable with your seat elevated if, for example, you suffer from knee pain.

A hybrid-style bike with high handlebars may be a better choice for people who suffer from the upper body, neck, or back pain. The upright position may ease the pain. Outdoor recumbent bikes are another option. A bicycle fitting will ensure you are seated optimally for the range of motion of your hips and knees [10].

Tips Before You Start Cycling with Arthritis

  • Move gently
  • Get the right gear
  • Start with a short ride
  • Stop if anything hurts
  • Stretch every day

On A Final Note...

It is always advisable to consult your physician before beginning an exercise program. You should consider the limitations of your joints and work within them. If you suffer from joint pain, a doctor or physical therapist can help determine if cycling is safe for you and how to incorporate it into the exercise plan that gives you the most benefit without aggravating your joint pain.

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