Biking and Cycling Tied to Lower Risk of Knee Pain and Knee Arthritis

Biking isn’t just a good low-impact cardio workout. A new study suggests that it might also help prevent knee pain and arthritis.

By middle age, people who participated in cycling or biking at any point in their lives were 17 percent less likely to experience knee pain and 21 percent less likely to develop symptomatic arthritis in the knee joint, according to study results published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

“The natural history of osteoarthritis is very long, making it difficult to track the different exercises you’ll do throughout your life, as well as their impact on joint health,” said the lead study author, Grace Lo, MD, an associate professor of immunology, allergy, and rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, in a statement.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, can develop in one or both knees as you age, causing symptoms such as pain, swelling, and stiffness in the knee joint, according to Cleveland Clinic. While some people have few symptoms, others can experience swelling and pain that makes it difficult to do daily activities like gardening or cleaning, or to continue to work.

Low-Impact Exercise for Knee Osteoarthritis

There’s no cure for arthritis of the knee joints, but doctors often advise people to pursue low-impact exercise like cycling, swimming, or walking — and to avoid high-impact activities like running or tennis — to help manage their symptoms, according to Cleveland Clinic. Up until now, however, it hasn’t been clear which low-impact exercise might be best for promoting healthy knee joints.

For the new study, researchers focused specifically on the potential benefits of cycling. Scientists asked more than 2,500 people whether they biked or cycled over four periods during their lives: 12 to 18 years, 19 to 34 years, 35 to 49 years, and 50 and up.

Then, researchers took X-rays of the participants to look for evidence of arthritis of the knee, also known as radiographic osteoarthritis (ROA). Participants also described any knee pain they experienced, allowing scientists to identify people who had what’s known as symptomatic radiographic osteoarthritis (SOA) — when people have both X-ray evidence of arthritis in the knee joint and symptoms like pain and swelling.

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