Treating arthritis takes effort. Beyond helpful vitamins and supplements, there are a number of ways you can exercise you ease the pain associated with your arthritis. One of the best exercises for arthritis is bicycling, for those physically able to do so. Bicycling can be a part of a healthy exercise routine for many arthritis patients, providing a great exercise that increases flexibility and stamina without causing stress to your already sensitive joints.
Follow these tips to optimize your biking — you might find that you’ve found a great new hobby!
Cycling is more low-impact than many sports
Despite the repetitive motion involved, riding a bicycle avoids the consistent impact of running and the strain of lifting weights. With a proper stretching routine, bicycling can help arthritis patients by moving joints in a more relaxed, low-pressure environment.
When cycling, you’ll notice that your muscles and joints will become more accustomed to the activity over time. As opposed to running, which can increase osteoarthritis in the knees for those already prone to the condition, bicycling isn’t constantly compacting the joins — rather, it’s stretching them out.
Follow our guide to stretching and exercising for arthritis before taking to the ride, to ensure your joints and muscles are ready to move!
These yoga poses for arthritis can also help you prepare for cycling.
You can make modifications to fit your physical ability
Many arthritis patients aren’t comfortable riding a normal bicycle. Fortunately, a typical setup is far from the only bike available. One popular option is recumbent bikes, which allow the rider to sit in a reclined position with a firm seat-back, easing back pain and strain on the middle part of the body.
Another option is arm-powered bicycles. These are ideal for riders with extreme arthritis pain in their legs. You can also look for bicycles customized specifically for riders with arthritis. On the market these days are bikes with automatic shifters built into the pedals so that you aren’t shifting with tender wrists. Another option for easing the workload on the wrist are automatic brakes.
E-bikes — bicycles that have an electric motor built in to provide support with propulsion — have been nothing short of revolutionary for arthritis patients. Joint pain and inflammation tend to make pedaling up a steep hill or through a winding, shifting or road system a tall order.
E-bikes ease the burden on your legs with the extra -get-up-and-go power, but also make the ride easier on the arms because it’s easier to maintain a consistent speed throughout the ride, minimizing the constant need to speed up and then brake.
How to bike with arthritis
As with other exercises for arthritis, you don’t want to do too much too soon. Start with a quick ride around the block or through your neighborhood, acclimatizing yourself to the feeling of pedaling and balance. Start with 1-2 rides per week, as your body allows.
Start on flat, paved paths instead of steep inclines or dirt trails. By riding on a smooth paved road you are avoiding bumps and rocks that might strain your joints and throw you off-balance.
After you’ve done this a few times, slowly begin to increase the length and frequency of your bike rides. Maybe you can ride to a specific destination such as a coffee shop or cafe to rest for a bit, and then back to your starting point.
Tips for mounting and dismounting your bicycle
When it already feels as though your joints are screaming at you, the thought of twisting your body onto a bicycle might sound like too much to ask for. Follow these steps to make the process of mounting and dismounting your bike easier:
- A bike that is too tall can cause strain and even injury when trying to mount and ride. Be sure that the bike isn’t too big for you. Check out this handy bike sizing chart from Bicycle Guider before buying or renting a bike, to make sure it’s fit to your body size.
- Make sure the bike has a kickstand. While you don’t want to put your full body weight onto the kickstand, a kickstand ensures you won’t have to lean all the way over to pick up or set down your bike when parking it.
- Have a professional bike mechanic fit your bike to you, and tune it to your specific needs. The mechanic should be able to offer advice not only on the bike, but on nearby roads and trails that might be a good fit for you.