April 11, 2024 8:02 pm
15. Is Cycling Bad for Your Knees1

Is Cycling Bad for Your Knees – How to Protect

Cycling is easy on your joints and excellent for your general health. For your joints, the right low-impact exercises can be incredibly beneficial. Here are some specific ways that cycling can benefit your knees.

Why Cycling is Good for Your Joints

Less joint stress is number one. “Cycling is a low-impact exercise,” says This means that cycling reduces impact stress on weight-bearing joints like your hips, knees, and feet. Additionally, the motion lubricates the joints, easing stiffness and pain. Other benefits of bicycling include:

Weight control: Additional weight can put pressure on your joints, especially your knees, and aggravate inflammatory arthritis.

Adjustable intensity: There are numerous intensities at which one can bicycle. You can occasionally coast if you move a little more slowly or shift into a lower gear to reduce the strain on your legs. Low-intensity cycling has been shown in research to be just as effective as high-intensity cycling in improving function and gait, reducing pain, and increasing aerobic fitness in individuals with knee osteoarthritis.

Muscle strengthening: According to Shroyer, exercising on a bike with moderate pedal resistance helps strengthen the quadriceps muscles on the front of the thighs while also promoting hip and knee range of motion. Your glutes and hamstrings (on the back of your thigh) are less heavily worked when you pedal. Your joints are supported and protected by strong muscles.

The Benefits of Cycling for the Knees

We’ve looked at the ways cycling can be bad for the knees, but that presupposes you’re not cycling correctly, have poor fit, or are using bad positions. Biking can be beneficial for your knees if you ride a bike that fits you, warm up properly, and take care of yourself while you’re out on the road.

Cycling is regarded as a low impact sport, making it a good form of exercise if you have osteoarthritis or any other type of old joint damage. In order to support the knees and prevent damage, it accomplishes this by enhancing the surrounding muscles.

Cycling is a great way to strengthen your core muscles and your legs as a whole, which helps to protect your knees.

Which is Better for Arthritis: Indoor Or Outdoor Cycling?

Both have great advantages, according to Shroyer, unless balance is an issue. “Indoor cycling offers adjustable resistance options and a climate-controlled atmosphere,” say says. If you have balance issues, indoor bikes are safer and can provide aerobic exercise for people who can’t walk well. “Outdoor cycling, on the other hand, offers change in scenery and naturally variable resistance,” adds Shroyer.

How to Choose An Indoor Bike With Arthritis

Upright stationary bicycles are similar to traditional outdoor bikes. They sit on an immovable platform and have handles, pedals, and a small bicycle seat. Similar muscles are worked out on an upright bike as they would be during an outdoor ride, which is a more comprehensive workout. Some stationary bicycles may have lower handles, requiring the rider to lean forward. “This may be uncomfortable for people with neck, back, or upper extremity arthritis,” says Shroyer, a stationary bike with higher handles enables you to sit more upright.

Recumbent stationary bikes have a larger, chair-like seat. Because you sit back into the frame and recline the seat, these bikes are easier on your lower back and hips. According to Shroyer, because they are lower to the ground, recumbent bikes are frequently simpler to get on and off of, though they may require much more hip mobility than upright bikes.

Spend some time on each bike at your gym to determine which one feels best to you, advises Shroyer, in order to find the best bike for you. For assistance positioning the seat correctly, consult a personal trainer.

How to Choose An Outdoor Bike With Arthritis

First, adjust your bike. To ensure the proper fit, bring your bike to a nearby store. A specialist may also recommend modifications to take your condition into account. According to the Cleveland Clinic, you might feel more at ease with your seat elevated if you, for instance, have knee pain.

A hybrid-style bike with high handlebars might be a better option if you suffer from upper body, neck, or back pain, suggests Shroyer. You can sit more upright, which might reduce pain. Outdoor recumbent bikes are yet another choice. You will be seated as comfortably as possible for your hip and knee range of motion thanks to a professional bike fitting.

Tips before You Start Cycling With Arthritis

It’s always a good idea to consult your doctor first if exercise is new to you. Work within your joints’ current capacity by keeping in mind their limitations. If cycling is safe for you, your doctor or a physical therapist can advise you on how to include it in an exercise regimen that will benefit you the most without making your joint pain worse. More tips to help protect your joints:

Move gently. To warm up, begin by gently moving your joints. Before engaging in aerobic exercise, you could start with range-of-motion exercises for five to ten minutes.

Get the right gear. Always wear a bike helmet, eye protection (such as basic sunglasses, if you’re riding outside), and clothing that is brightly colored when you’re riding. To protect your hands from vibration or harm if you fall, you should also think about wearing bike gloves. Before you leave, plan your route. It helps to keep you away from traffic by using designated bike trails.

Start off with a brief ride. Start out with five or ten minutes of low resistance. Start out easy, then gradually lengthen and intensify your ride as you advance. Work your way up to 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise per week (that’s 30 minutes, five times per week). If it’s easier on your joints, divide that time into 10-minute segments. You should be able to converse while exercising, even though your breathing rate will increase, to know if you are in the moderate intensity exercise zone.

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If you feel any pain, stop. Says Shroyer, pay attention to the pain. When your joints begin to hurt, stop and stretch, or shift gears to lessen the resistance on hills, for instance. “Sharp changes in intensity can add stress to the patellofemoral joint [where your kneecap meets your thigh bone] and increase inflammation in the knee,” says Shroyer. “Be not afraid to walk your bike up a hill you underestimated.” It’s time to stop if you experience any new joint pain. Consult your doctor to learn what types of pain are common and when they indicate more serious conditions.

Stretch every day. You should continue being active even if your RA or OA pain flares up. Some of the pain may be reduced by simple stretching.

Biking is a Great Option If You Have Arthritis

Cycling can be an excellent treatment for common symptoms for riders whose knee pain is caused by a chronic condition like arthritis. This includes discomfort when moving and joint pain. Bike riding is frequently a great option for people with arthritic knees since other exercises might be too difficult due to arthritis.

The Flexibility of Cycling

The best form of exercise for people who have knee pain increases flexibility while also working out the joints. However, knee pain can manifest itself differently from day to day, necessitating the need for a workout you can control. On days when your pain threshold is higher, you want the option to reduce the intensity and move more slowly. Additionally, you want to have the option of stepping up the pace when the pain is at its lowest.

Each time you get on a bike, you can choose the level of difficulty. You can tailor your route to your mood in addition to using the bike itself to lessen the force on your knees.

Simply coast for a while when your legs need a rest. To reduce the force required to pedal, you can also downshift into lower gears. When it comes to loosening up stiff knees and easing discomfort, working out hard or light doesn’t really make a difference, so find a routine that suits you.

The Right Bike for the Job

There is no one size fits all bike for people with bad knees. You need to fit properly to find the right bicycle. You can get assistance from anyone at your neighborhood bike shop to ensure that the bike is fitted to your precise proportions. A properly sized bike will prevent your knee pain from getting worse while you’re riding.

The bike’s seat position is the most crucial component to examine. Every time you pedal, it will affect how your knees bend if it is too high or too low. The ideal position has your knees at the top of a stroke at a 45-degree angle. When you extend your leg at the bottom, it also causes a slight bend in your knees.

Verify the placement of your pedals as you adjust the situation. The distance from the bike itself can have an impact on knee pain. If they’re in the proper place, you should be able to point your toes forward and center your feet on the pedals without experiencing any discomfort.

And All the Other Necessary Bike Gear

The other exercise-related equipment is just as important as your bike for cycling. This includes wearing footwear and attire that won’t obstruct your aerodynamics as you fly along your route.

Despite the fact that you can ride a bike in any shoe, if you plan to do so frequently to treat knee pain, you may want to buy a pair of cycling-specific shoes. Features to look for include:

  • Stiff soles
  • Cleats (2 or 3)
  • Minimal tread — these shoes aren’t for walking
  • Arch support

Cycling shoes come in a variety of closure types, so you can choose the one that fits your feet the best. The options include dials, laces, straps, and even buckles.

Your ride can also be more comfortable if you wear clothing designed for bikes, such as men’s and women’s tights. You may become more visible when driving as a result. Look for clothing with:

  • Stretchy fabric that makes it easy to move, but also stays in place
  • Moisture-wicking properties that reduce friction
  • Waterproof and windproof features if necessary for where you ride
  • Breathable fabric that also dries quickly, like Nike Dri-FIT

The majority of cycling apparel is form-fitting to aid in aerodynamics, and you should look for clothing with a reflective patch for your safety when biking at night.

One more thing to keep in mind when purchasing equipment is the helmet. Find one with a design you like and that fits well. There is no reason why your gear can’t feel fashionable and keep you safe from harm.

Outdoor Vs. Indoor Cycling

You may decide to ride a stationary bike indoors if you have knee pain in order to have more control over the intensity and duration of your ride. You won’t have to contend with sidewalks, unforeseen obstacles, or the stop-start at street crossings. Cycling outside does allow you to enjoy beautiful scenery and change things up from day to day. The benefit of combining your exercise routine with a few errands is another benefit of outdoor cycling. Maintaining motivation while crossing something off your to-do list can be made simple by cycling to a particular location and back.

Contrarily, indoor cycling gives you total control. At any time during a ride, the resistance can be changed, and you can get off without having to save enough energy to travel the entire distance. Since you can ride year-round and in any weather, it may be more advantageous to establish a routine to help with knee pain symptoms.

Your Choices for An Indoor Bike

You may favor one stationary bike over another depending on how bad your knees are. If you have moved cycling indoors because you have pain on a traditional bike, recumbent bikes, for instance, completely relieve the pressure on your knees.

Additionally gentler on your knees, stationary bikes still give you the same workout as cycling outside while moving. They’re better for those with knee pain who prefer an indoor workout simply because they want to:

  • Watch TV while cycling
  • Cycle with a group in a class
  • Have a safer environment to ride
  • Set very specific workout routines

Picking the Right Exercise for Knee Pain

Even if you’re reluctant to exercise at all because of knee pain, there are still things you can do to work your legs and muscles while preventing injury. Regular cycling can give you an easy-on-the-knees workout, as well as improve knee health and ease pain. This is especially true if you use a bicycle that is fitted to you. Cycling and knee problems seem to go hand in hand.

Importance of a Proper Fit

It’s essential to ride a bike that is sized properly for your body to prevent knee pain. The amount your knee must bend and extend as you pedal can vary depending on whether the seat is too high or low. When your seat is adjusted to its ideal height, your knee will be just past a 45-degree angle at the top of the stroke and slightly bent at the bottom.

Additionally, you must position your feet correctly. Knee pain can result from pedals that are too close or too far from the bike frame, so if necessary, adjust the cleats. Your feet should be comfortably centered on the cleats with your toes pointing forward.


Cycling can be both good for you and bad for you, depending on how you do it. You can enjoy cycling and use it as a fantastic way to strengthen your knees if you cycle with proper form, take care to do your warm-up exercises, and make sure you choose a bike that fits you properly. Enjoy the ride!

Frequently Asked Questions:

Should You Exercise With Knee Pain?

Experts advise against any form of exercise that involves jumping for those who have knee pain. They also advise moderate walking because it is a low-impact activity. However, the walking should begin slowly and should not last longer than 20 minutes per day.

How Long Should You Ride for a Good Workout?

Avoid any rough terrain if you’re biking as a form of exercise. Experts advise riding your bike for at least 30 to 60 minutes to get the most out of your workout. However, a proper warm-up should be performed before each ride.

What Muscles Does Biking Use?

Several vital body muscles are used when you bike. However, the hamstrings, quadriceps, and gastrocnemius are the main muscles used in biking.

Does Biking Make Your Legs Bigger?

No, that’s not the answer. You can strengthen your leg muscles by biking properly. Your legs will become stronger as a result, increasing their resistance to fatigue while you exercise. Biking does not, however, cause you to gain muscle on your legs.

What is the Best Bike for Bad Knees?

The worst bike for bad knees is not even one. It’s important to purchase a bike that fits you properly if you have knee-related issues. However, before starting a cycling program as an exercise, we advise people with chronic knee pain to speak with their doctor.

Is Cycling in the Winter Bad for Your Knees?

Wintertime is the peak season for all joint issues. It is as a result of the fact that biking significantly reduces the temperature. However, you can lessen this issue by donning the appropriate attire, such as biking pants, gloves, and other protective gear.