You want to exercise and you are decided to try cycling. But you are worried about your health and you may ask yourself: is biking bad for your heart?
I’m glad you asked! Why?
Because there’s good news – biking is NOT bad for your heart.
On the contrary, biking is great for your heart, and for your entire cardiovascular system.
What bike riding does to your heart?
Regular bike riding, regardless of whether it’s on steep outdoor trails, or on a stationary bike at the gym, can really stimulate your heart and get it pumping. And more often than not, that’s generally a very good thing.
As you cycle faster and faster, your heart starts to work harder and this can really strengthen your heart muscles. The reason it does this is to pump more oxygen through your blood to the muscles that need it for cycling, mainly in your legs. Your blood circulation meanwhile adapts and improves.
Long term effects of regular bike riding
But that’s not all. Not only does cycling strengthen your heart muscles, but regular cycling also lowers your resting pulse, AND reduces blood fat levels. So it’s not just your heart that improves but your entire cardiovascular system.
And therefore, by cycling regularly, you can seriously reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attack.
What if I already have heart or cardiovascular issues?
Of course, if you already suffer with any kind of cardiovascular ill health, then you should consult with your doctor before making any significant lifestyle changes.
The doctor will have all your medical records in front of him/her and would be best placed to advise you on what course of action is best to take.
Is biking bad for your back?
This question is a little trickier to answer…
Is biking bad for your back?
Sure, biking can be a good exercise option for those with existing back pain, but it can also cause back pain if not done properly. Moreover, cycling does nothing for your back muscles, it does not nurture or condition them.
Posture on your bike is everything when it comes to looking after your back and spine. Poor posture on your bike can put a strain on your back. Leaning over, with the back arched and head up, can strain both your neck and back.
What to do about it?
The first thing you can do to prevent cycling from causing back pain is to select the correct frame geometry, so that it’s perfectly comfortable for you to ride whilst maintaining an upright posture.
Riding with an upright posture might feel a bit weird at first, but trust me, it’s worth getting used to.
Does it depend on the terrain?
I’m glad you asked, because actually what terrain your cycling over can have a dramatic difference on whether you will get back pain from riding your bike. Cycling over bumpy roads or harsh terrain continuously jars the spine, which can lead to pain in your lower back.
What about stationary recumbent bikes?
I’m pleased to report that stationary recumbent bikes are not bad for your back. Most reviews about recumbent bikes are very favorable about just how comfortable they are.
Is biking bad for your hips?
Unfortunately, I now have to be the bearer of bad news. It’s true – riding your bike can cause hip pain.
If your hips hurt after riding your bike, this is because your hips never open when you’re on a bike. Your hips stay in a fixed position as your legs go up and down in the same plane. And as you pedal, your hips never straighten or rotate enough to open up the hip joint.
This can cause your hip rotator muscles to tighten, and you amy begin to feel pain in your deep glute area.
What to do about hip pain from cycling?
If you continue to experience hip pain while cycling, there are some simple exercises you can do to relieve hip pain. Check out this Youtube video
One of the more beneficial exercises you can do to prevent hip pain while cycling is to counteract the underuse of the muscles involved by doing some targeted stretching and strength training…
The best move we can recommend for this is to lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, and cross the right leg over the left.
Is this really a problem?
Unfortunately, issues with the hips can also cause pain elsewhere. Our advice is to play close attention to how your body feels as you ride your bike. Take note of any pains or discomforts, and report them to your doctor.
Your doctor or physiotherapist can best advise you as to whether it’s sensible for you to continue to ride your bike, or whether it might be better to find an alternative form of exercise.
SEE MORE: How does biking tone your body
Is biking bad for your knees?
Mostly good news this time.
Cycling is generally considered a knee-sparing exercise because it does not require impact with the ground, which can jar the knees if you were instead walking, running or jogging.
However, in some instances, the repetitive motion of pedalling can lead to a variety of overuse derived knee injuries. An estimated 40% to 60% of riders experience knee pain.
What exactly are these overuse injuries?
Over the long term, frequent riding of your bike can lead to overuse injuries, where there are degenerative changes that can lead to weakness, loss of flexibility, and chronic pain.
For more information on this, please refer to: http://www.kneeclinic.info/knee_sports_injuries_cycling.php.
What to do to be able to ride your bike without hurting your knees
What to do about knee pain when cycling depends on where it hurts…
If the back of your knee hurts, we recommend that you try lowering the saddle a bit or moving it forward a bit in relation to the handlebars.
If however it’s the front of your knees that hurt, we recommend that you try raising the saddle a bit or moving it back in relation to the handlebars.
Steve Beck is a passionate cyclist and experienced writer covering the cycling industry for over a decade. He has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in all bike-related things, from the latest products and technologies to the best routes and trails. His articles are well-researched, informative, and engaging, and he has a talent for explaining complex cycling concepts in a way that is easy to understand. Steve can be found on the road when he’s not writing about bikes, putting his knowledge and skills to the test.