Use an exercise bike properly to prevent knee pain.
Indoor cycling makes it easy to stay active and squeeze more exercise into your schedule. With an exercise bike, you can work out at the gym or in the comfort of your home while watching TV. It's a fun, convenient way to burn calories and tone your muscles. But what if you experience knee pain while cycling? Is it normal? Can an exercise bike hurt your knees?
An exercise bike is easier on your knees than weightbearing exercise, such as walking on a treadmill. However, knee pain can develop from cycling.
Understand Knee Pain
Exercise bikes are often used in rehab programs. Compared to the treadmill, it's easier on your joints and safer overall. In the long run, it can strengthen the muscles around your knees, improve joint stability and increase your range of motion. However, injuries may occur.
Knee pain is a common complaint among cyclists. A study published in the Journal of Family and Community Medicine has found that 15.9 percent of professional cyclists and 25.8 percent of amateur cyclists experienced this problem. However, knee pain was attributed to this activity in only 17.2 percent of cases. Most times, it occurred spontaneously or while running. Underweight cyclists appeared to be particularly at risk.
Even though using an exercise bike is safer than outdoor cycling, it may still cause knee pain, especially if the muscles around your knees are weak. Poor exercise form contributes to this problem too. According to the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, knee pain in cyclists may result from long-distance rides, lack of pre-ride conditioning, bicycle misalignment and weak or delayed activation of the leg muscles.
The knee is a complex joint. Common mistakes, such as making sudden increases in your cycling speed and distance, can lead to pain. If you go overboard, you may develop overuse injuries.
Prevent Knee Pain
As you see, knee pain is preventable in most cases. To stay safe, warm up before jumping on the bike and cool down when you're done. Adjust the seat properly, making sure it isn't low or too far back. Keep your shoulders relaxed and avoid hunching over.
If you're out of shape or new to indoor cycling, increase the speed, distance and resistance gradually. Keep a slight bend in your knees rather than fully extending your legs as you pedal. Most important, don't sacrifice form for speed or resistance. If you're prone to knee pain, avoid fancy choreographed movements like those used in spinning classes.
Take the time to rest between cycling sessions. Just because the exercise bike is safer than other gym machines doesn't mean it's less taxing on your body. Your muscles and joints are working hard to produce the force needed to pedal and maintain your balance.
Mix Up Your Fitness Routine
One of the best ways to protect your knees is to strengthen the muscles surrounding them. Besides indoor cycling, your workout should include weight training, plyometrics and lower body exercises. Squats, for instance, engage your quads, hamstrings, calves and core muscles, which, in turn, may help reduce injury risk. Lunges, straight-leg deadlifts and leg presses are all great choices.
You might also try foam rolling and stretching. These techniques can help prevent and relieve knee pain while increasing your range of motion. For this reason, they're often used in physiotherapy and injury rehab.
Foam rolling, for example, may reduce tension and knee pain by stretching the iliotibial (IT) band, a tendon that runs down the length of your outer thigh. For optimum results, use a foam roller after cycling or on your off-training days.