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5244 Views 19 Replies Latest reply: Jul 11, 2009 8:26 PM by MotiveForcer RSS 1 2 Previous Next
Active Toby Active.com Staff 1,559 posts since
Jun 5, 2007
Currently Being Moderated

Feb 19, 2009 9:02 AM

Cyclists at risk for bone loss

In a recent article from the

LA Times

, studies have shown that the "low-impact nature of cycling, "isn't conducive to building strong bones." Read the full article and they say that "adding high-impact exercises can ease the risks of injury."

 

I haven't really heard of this until now or thought of it, but it certainly does make sense now that I think of it. Many folks choose cycling over high-impact activities like running to prevent stress to the joints, etc. but I suppose this is the adverse risk. What are your thoughts on this? Have you heard this angle presented before?





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  • DamonLPoor Amateur 20 posts since
    Jan 27, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Feb 22, 2009 9:47 PM (in response to Active Toby)
    Re: Cyclists at risk for bone loss

     

    Toby

     

     

    We have a member of our club who has not reached 50 who has had so much bone loss his bone structure is that of someone in his 80's. He has basicly had to give up cycling. I am not familiar with the LA Times article but there was an article in one of the cycling magazines a couple of years ago(his story was part of the article) done by a local University profesor. She is also a local competitive cyclist and the LA Times article may have been derived from hers.

     

     

    Calcium suplementation is critcal and running does not need to be added. Resistance training more often than not is sufficient. It is quite un-nerving though that both cycling and swimming have the same effect on our bodies. In some cases it would be good to get a bone scan to see if you are in danger, if your physician says no explain the article and how your cycling mayhelp lead to premature bone loss and you would like to know where you stand.

     

     

  • strangerthanfitness Pro 120 posts since
    Dec 3, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    2. Feb 22, 2009 11:06 PM (in response to Active Toby)
    Re: Cyclists at risk for bone loss

    Not a major expert or anything but you can almost think of your bones in the way you think of your muscles.  If you never use your tricep you will have a week and under developed tricep.  In a similar way bones will do the same thing.  If your body can "sense" no reason to build bone strength and density then it simply will not do that.  As far as I understand it calcium suplements will only do so much to help with this...you can look no further than astronauts and the great lengths NASA is taking to find a way to enduce the bones to maintain their density while in weightlesness.  Its very important for people to include a fair amount of load-bearing exercise and movement that has impact to maintain bone density.

  • Eco13 Expert 56 posts since
    Feb 18, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    5. Feb 23, 2009 4:45 PM (in response to Active Toby)
    Re: Cyclists at risk for bone loss

     

    sigh  Just when you think you're doing something GOOD for your body, you find out you don't have the whole story!  I chose to get into cycling because running (and even walking or standing for long periods of time) was causing a lot of pain in my left heel.  For about 6 months I consciously chose to stay away from high-impact activities.  However, I do some weight training and it sounds like that was a good (albeit accidental) choice.  Perhaps the lesson for the day would be...cross train, no matter what activity you are most focused on!

     

     

  • DamonLPoor Amateur 20 posts since
    Jan 27, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    7. Feb 23, 2009 11:09 PM (in response to Active Toby)
    Re: Cyclists at risk for bone loss

     

    Toby,

     

     

    According to the women who wrote the article I refered to vitamin D does help absorbtion. Something else to consider is that calcium is also lost in sweat and can be found in some electrolyte tablets that many of us use in long hard rides. When we get leg cramps the first thing we usually ask ourself is have we been taking in enough fluids and almost the next thought is sodium/potassium but a drop in calcium will also cause leg cramps. I carry calcium sterate tablets as fast acting help for cramps and it works real well.

     

     

    And cycling is still one of the best activities for cardio strength. I know that many also run and yes running does promote bone growth and repair but think about it running also has it's draw backs in stress injuries to joints that will never happen cycling. Just make sure you arae doing something to help promote healthy bone growth.

     

     

  • Dr. Rae Rookie 1 posts since
    Aug 9, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    8. Mar 2, 2009 5:49 PM (in response to DamonLPoor)
    Re: Cyclists at risk for bone loss

    "Weight-bearing exercise" is crucial to bone health.  This does not mean you need to run marathons and beat your joints into submission, but it does however mean cycling and swimming are not enough for healthy bones, especially for slender, Caucasian women who are post-menopausal (those most at risk for osetoporosis).  Unfortunately, cycling and being slender and older often coincide.

     

     

     

     

     

    The mystery of what is meant by "weight-bearing exercise" is somewhat dubious, but most physicians agree that it is anything that involves lifting your own body weight, free weights/weight machines, or heavy resistance training.  For those interested in protecting joint health, this can be as simple as a few miles of walking on a regular basis.  The regular use of even light hand weights or ankle weights also protects bone health (the key word being "regular" in both these scenarios).  Weight and resistance training are important for optimum cycling performance regardless, and we should all be doing them anyway!  The poster who mentioned the analogy of bone being weakened if not used just like a muscle which is not used is exactly correct - if your bone is not "sensing" the need to be strong enough to support your weight, it will gradually disintegrate, moving first into osteopenia (think pre-osteoporosis), then osteoporosis.

     

     

     

     

    With respect to the calcium and Vitamin D issue, Vitamin D is ESSENTIAL to your GI tract's (read: intestines) absorption of calcium.  (Scientific aside: it acts as a cotransporter for calcium entering your body - you have to pay the "toll" of Vitamin D in order for calcium to enter.)  Vitamin D can be produced naturally by your body through exposure to sunlight - but this requires at least 15 minutes per day in the sun, and longer if only your hands and face, for example, are exposed.  Unfortunately, Vitamin D deficiency is alarmingly common, especially in the older population, those in Northern latitudes (less sun, more snow, more thoroughly-covering clothing), and those who wear daily sunscreen.  For most of us, it is far easier to choose a calcium supplement which also includes Vitamin D.  The poster who made the point of calcium supplementation not being adequate enough is quite correct - it is extremely difficult to gain adequate calcium from supplementation alone, and not all it goes to your bones (it's also crucial for heart health and muscle contraction - as alluded to by the poster referencing cramps caused by low calcium).  It is important to incorporate both weight-bearing exercise, adequate dairy consumption, and calcium supplementation (with Vitamin D!) for optimum bone health.

  • MotiveForcer Community Moderator 448 posts since
    Jul 9, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    9. Mar 12, 2009 6:10 AM (in response to Dr. Rae)
    Re: Cyclists at risk for bone loss

     

    An important topic and fortunately the doctor and others provided us with some key data.  I've been aware of this issue for a number of years now.  There was an article in Bicycling I believe that reported a story about a 60 year old elite cyclist who had crashed and broke his hip. It was not healing fast and he had a  bone density study performed and he was in the very low percentiles.  The comment was that cycling, like swimming, was a zero gravity sport and if the bones aren't stressed they can become frail.  With huge riding miles, we often times can sit on a bike for 5 hours or more in a day.  We have requirements to fuel our muscles with calcium and it has to come from somewhere.  If we don't provide ourselves with enough from dietary means we can acquire it from our storage units a.k.a. the bones!  Fuel yourself efficiently.  Recently I was sitting on a plane next to a medical researcher and this particular doctor was doing research in this area. He suggested calcium enhanced orange juice as an ideal source for calcium.

     

     

    When I met people, and since I'm in the business and lead up to three, soon to be four rides, a week this season, that are taking up riding to replace running which is too hard on them I usually suggest that they not give up on it entirely even though I warn them of the seductive nature of riding!  Keep walking or performing those resistance exercises...

     

     

    So here is my question that I've not been able to find the definitive answer.  Is using a rowing machine, such as a Concept II "weight bearing" or not?

     

     

    So enjoy riding but keep on truckin' too!

     

     

    EJ Levy

     

     

  • haz008 Rookie 4 posts since
    Feb 8, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    10. Apr 27, 2009 6:54 PM (in response to MotiveForcer)
    Re: Cyclists at risk for bone loss

    Re. the rowing machine, my guess would be "no." You might want to check with a professional...actually definitely check with a professional but if this is something that you're worried about, moderate weight lifting is a good idea no matter what else you are doing. And for something a bit more fun, I would think b-ball, tennis or racquetball would be great as well.

  • MotiveForcer Community Moderator 448 posts since
    Jul 9, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    11. Apr 27, 2009 8:45 PM (in response to haz008)
    Re: Cyclists at risk for bone loss

     

    This is perhaps one of the most important threads started on ACTIVE and Toby needs to be patted on the back for his question.  One aspect not addressed upon the re-read is that simply walking is useful and easy weight bearing exercises, light weghts with reptitions or calisthenics can be beneficial as well. At a lecture I attended at the University of Pittsburgh  Medical School a couple of years ago the guest clinician was one of the foremost authorities on rheumatoid arthritis.  During his presentation he made reference to his experience of running on a treadmill and knee joint health.  I asked him subsequent to the talk how long would the human knee be able to sustain the pressures and strain of an active life.  He responded about 120 years!  That was based upon the notion that the alignment of the joint was true.  So, getting good orthotics is crucial to a good alignment and I've mentioned this point in other threads.So, while many start riding to rid themselves of the stress of walking, perhaps getting their alignment modified is a good start. Poor alignment, at the foot level especially can cause knee problems even on the bike.

     

     

    There is always more to learn.  Riding utilizes the largest muscle groups in our bodies and certainly can stress our cardiovascular systems but alas, the bones need a push too. 

     

     

    EJ

     

     

  • cswere Rookie 4 posts since
    Feb 29, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    12. Apr 30, 2009 12:18 PM (in response to Active Toby)
    Re: Cyclists at risk for bone loss

     

    Hi Toby,

     

     

    I am an active triathlete, not as active a I'd like to be since the birth of our daughter, but that's besides the point.  Anyway's, After some recent tests, I have been told  that my bone density is too low,  that I have soft bones, and I need to do more high impact exercises.  This surprised me because I run on a daily basis and have done several long distance endurance events like marathons and Iron distance races, but he said it's not enough, so I have been starting to do some weight training, and I also take supplements. I did some of my own research and I came across this article on exercise and osteoporosis. It does a good job of explaining high and low impact exercises.  The later half of the article specifically addresses impact exercises.  This thought just came to me, even though cycling is considered a low

    impact sport, I wonder if mountain biking is considered low impact as well?

    I would think it would be high impact if you regularly ride on rough terrain.  It's worth testing out.  What do you think? 

     

     

  • MotiveForcer Community Moderator 448 posts since
    Jul 9, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    13. Apr 30, 2009 4:23 PM (in response to cswere)
    Re: Cyclists at risk for bone loss

     

    CSWere.

     

     

    Sorry, but no. It has to do with forces and resistance. It is fun to mountain bike though. Weight bearing as in lifting and walking/running are good. Swimming and riding and I recently learned, rowing are not http://rowing a bit for the spine as you sit on your gluts but mostly no....

     

     

    You look relatively young to have "too low" density.  If you were not consuming calcium in sufficient levels and then mega training you may have been using your bones as a calcium source for your muscles.  Nevertheless, I'm surprised your density was low and I wonder about a couple of things. First, why did you have it tested in the first place and how was it done.? If low and you were consuming green leafy vegetables and drinking OJ with Ca in it then why so low if you were running?  Perhaps a referral to a specialist?

     

    Best wishes,

    EJ

     

     

  • cswere Rookie 4 posts since
    Feb 29, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    14. May 1, 2009 9:01 AM (in response to MotiveForcer)
    Re: Cyclists at risk for bone loss

     

    MotiveForcer,

     

     

    Well I guess I'll have to moutain bike for pure enjoyment then, darn

     

     

    I had some testing done for cancer, thankfully it came back negative.  They tested my bone marrow and while doing so they said I had soft bones.  Recently I also had a health screening.  Eventhough I knew the results would be fine, it was provided free by our office, so I said what the heck...From Those results it was determined that my bone density was a little low, and they recommended I take calcium supplements. I will be following up with the health screening in a couple of months.

     

     

    Thanks for your input.

     

     

    CSwere

     

     

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