We love to ride our bikes. For many, it can become the entirety of our exercise. Cycling is great for many aspects of our health, but skipping high impact sports may leave you at risk for lower than normal bone density (osteoporosis).
When we hear about osteoporosis, we often picture our grandmothers. Think again. Recent studies indicate that osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis, occurs more often in cyclists than their athlete counterparts who run or participate in weightlifting or power sports [1, 2]. The key is that we need to trigger our bone's constant rebuilding process through weight load and vibration. This is known as Wolfe's law. Cycling actually minimizes this impact, creating a silent environment for a brittle skeleton.
The International Olympic Committee recently released a statement that bone health can be affected in both men and women athletes . Studies have shown that male masters racers have serious bone density changes because their time on the bike does not stimulate bone formation . Road cyclists are at greater risk than mountain bikers . Additional risk factors of sweating, smoking, weight loss, excessive alcohol consumption, genetics, inadequate diet and low hormone status can leave many cyclists positioned for bad bones.
Osteopenia and osteoporosis include increased risk for fractures. Unfortunately, all cyclists face the risk of crashing, no matter how hard they try to “keep the rubber side down”. The increased risk of fracture extends beyond trauma on the bike. The good news is that we have some control over our bone density and overall health. Regardless of how strong and fit we are during sport, there are some steps you can take to protect your bone health.
At Kinetic Integration, we can provide you with an exercise program to do off the bike that includes plyometrics and other weight bearing exercises that have been shown to improve bone health . We can order a DEXA scan to assess your bone density. Regardless of your gender or fitness, now is a great time to discuss your dietary intake, supplement myths, Vitamin D levels, inflammatory load and hormonal optimization.
Next time you are in the peloton look around. It is estimated that 63% of male non weight bearing athletes have osteopenia . Are you one of them?
Hop, skip and jump. Bear weight. Change it up.
Emily Ohlin, PT, SCS is a board certified sports specialist at Kinetic Integration. She has worked in a variety of settings, including with the Portland Timbers during the inaugural MLS season and most recently, as the working director of private practice sports clinics.
Melissa Shays, ND, LAc is a Naturopathic Physician and licensed Acupuncturist currently practicing at Kinetic Integration in Portland, OR. and Columbia Gorge Physical Therapy in Hood River, OR.
1. Rector RS, et al. Participation in road cycling vs running is associated with lower bone mineral density in men. Metabolism. 2008 Feb;57(2):226-32. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18191053
3. The IOC consensus statement: beyond the Female Athlete Triad--Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24620037
5. Mcveigh JA, et al. Radial bone size and strength indices in male road cyclists, mountain bikers and controls. Eur J Sport Sci. 2015;15(4):332-40. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25005697
6. Qian JG, et al. Effectiveness of Selected Fitness Exercises on Stress of Femoral Neck using Musculoskeletal Dynamics Simulations and Finite Element Model. J Hum Kinet. 2014 Jul 8;41:59-70. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25114732