Published by Lyn on 16 October 2015
Here are a few quick tips to help you protect your joints while you're cycling. They may be particularly useful for new or irregular cyclists.
Cycling is great for your health – we already know that. If you don't believe me, then check out this list of scentific studies that carry much more evidence than I could produce here.
Because it's a low-impact exercise, it's easier on your joints then a running session or an aerobics class, but some cyclists do still suffer hip and knee pain.
Here are some quick tips to help avoid this happening, and to have it sorted out if it does affect you.
Step 1: Build up your fitness levels gradually
When you take up a new form of exercise, it’s important to start slowly, and cycling is no different. Jumping a bike for the first time in years and you'll likely end up with sore muslces, aching joints and a tender bum after a few miles.
The key to protecting your joints is to build up your fitness and strength. By building up how far you cycle gradually, your body has the chance to generate the supportive muscle needed to keep your joints correctly aligned while you cycle.
Step 2: Know your limits
You need to know your limits. By all means push them to build up fitness, but be sensible about it. If you're experiencing pain, get it checked out. Most people can still cycle while they're being treated, but it may mean you reduce your intensity until your body comes good.
Step 3: Maintain the correct riding position
It's important to maintain a good riding position that's comfortable for you but also safeguards your body. The best way to do this is to have your bike set up correctly for you (consider arranging a bike fitting via your local bike shop).
Your saddle needs to be in the correct position and at the right height. Positioning your handlebars correctly is also important, as is getting your pedal position right.
If you’re not sure about the best way to adjust your bike, it’s worth having an experienced cyclist or a professional set up your bike with you (see here). A poorly adjusted bike means you won’t be distributing your weight correctly, which will put unnecessary pressure on your joints.
Step 4: Treat any injuries or pain quickly
If you do start experiencing pain, it’s important to get treatment quickly. Don't just dose yourself up with painkillers and carry on.
Listen to your body: pain is always a sign that something is wrong, and getting an early diagnosis will help you to avoid long-term issues such as arthritis, which can develop as a result of continually stressing an inflamed joint. (Arthritis is estimated to affect 10 million people in the UK alone). Physiotherapy can treat most minor forms of joint pain, though pain can lead to operations if it isn't treated early and properly.
In more detail
How to deal with cycling's aches and pains: Overview on BikeRadar.
How cycling can strengthen your knees and hips: From the Arthritis Foundation.
Training tips to help protect your knees: Ideas from Bicycling magazine.
Avoiding saddle soreness: Article from British Cycling.
How the Team Sky pros cope with and aviod injuries: Road Cycling UK article.