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Is Cycling Bad For Your Bones

The short answer is yes! EndurElite Chief Endurance Officer provides the research and how cyclists can prevent it from happening to them.

Video Transcription:

Is Cycling Bad For Bone Density

Good morning family a fast. So while I was on vacation I was shredding the brown pile on some tasty single track and I did this full send up a wicked kicker and totally went OTB and heard a loud crack in my lower leg. The ambulance came they took me to the emergency room and the doctor said I fractured my femur and he said it was more than likely due to cycling causing poor bone mass density. Okay, so totally fictitious story there but good story nonetheless and the topic of today's video and that is, "If Cycling Is Bad For Your Bone Health," more specifically for your bone mass density. Now to clear a couple things up right off the bat, this rates to road cycling only, it doesn't relate to mountain biking. And it's not really a question if cycling is bad for your bones per se. It's more a question if cycling is optimal for your bone health or for your bone mass density. And the short answer is, road cycling really isn't optimal for your bone mass density. And we'll get into the reasons here in a second. 

The Research On Bone Density And Cycling

But actually, let's take a look at the research first on cycling and bone mass density. Now, there's a lot of studies out there, probably about 50 to 60 as it relates to cycling and bone mass density and bone health. But the one I found is a meta-analysis, which from previous videos you guys know is a collection of of all studies where the researcher basically has inclusion criteria, they mash up all the results in the data and then they give you the results or conclusions from all these studies as compared to one. So the one I'm going to reference today was done back in 2012 in "BMC Medicine," and here's what happened. A scientific literature search on studies discussing bone mass and bone metabolism in cyclists was performed to collect all relevant published material up to April 2012. Descriptive, cross-sectional, longitudinal, and interventional studies were all reviewed. So lots of good studies there, lots of good methods, so we know these studies are good. Inclusion criteria were met by 31 studies and here's what the result of this meta-analysis showed. 

Heterogeneous...jeez, that's a hard word. Heterogeneous studies in terms of gender, age, data source, group of comparison, cycling level or modality practiced among other factors showed minor but important differences and results. So they compared cyclists to all populations of people just to kind of exclude some certain factors like genetics or dietary patterns or stuff like that so they could really zero in on if cycling was the culprit. Despite some controversial results it has been observed that adult road cyclists participating in regular training have low bone mineral density in key regions like the lumbar spine. Conversely, other types of cycling such as mountain biking or combination with other sports like something like running could reduce this unsafe effect. These results cannot be explained by differences in dietary patterns or [inaudible 00:03:35]. So it's mostly related to the road cycling. And to hit on another important point, they suggest mountain biking and running maybe to help prevent this loss of bone mass density or improve bone mass density because in order for a bone to form or grow or to improve density, there needs to be an additional stress kind of put on it, really simply put.

So what they concluded was from our comprehensive survey of the current available literature, it can be concluded that road cycling does not appear to confer any significant osteogenic benefit or bone building benefit. The cause of this may be related to spending long hours in a weight-supported position on the bike in combination with a necessary enforced recovery time that usually involves just like sitting or laying around so you're not putting any stress on the bone, especially at the competitive level. So what does this all mean? That's a lot of information here. Basically, the reason that road cycling does not improve or in some cases maintain bone mass density is for a few different reasons. One, on a bike you're in a supported position it's not really weight bearing. Two is that usually cyclists have a lower body mass and body fat. And then three, some hormonal things going on too that can all lead to really basically road cycling not having any benefit for bone mass density. So what the hell can you do to basically keep your bone mass density up as a road cyclist? So when you're old and wise and all that stuff, you're not having osteopenia or osteoporosis.

How Can You Improve Your Bone Density As A Cyclist

Well, here's three things that you can do as a road cyclist to make sure your bone mineral density is in check. One, Get your ass in the gym and lift some heavy stuff that loads the axial skeleton, so specifically your spine. So you're thinking exercises like the squat is a prime example because that puts a lot of stress on the axial skeleton and the stress helps bone mineral density. Now, you also want to lift heavier, with proper training first, because the heavier weight puts a greater stress on the bones. The second thing you can do is involve some kind of plyometric or jumping training a couple days a week in the gym as well. And again, that impact from jumping up and down will put the additional stress on the bone to help with the bone mineral density. The third thing you can do is do a little cross training from time to time. If you only like to cycle, you know, get on the mountain bike, you know, once or twice a week. If you can stand it as a cyclist, and I know a lot of you can't, get your butt outside and do some running. So those are the three things you can do as a road cyclist that will help with your bone mineral density. 

All right, my endurance friends, that is all I have for today. If you have a buddy that's a road cyclist, please share this video with them. If you want other videos like this on endurance training, nutrition and supplementation, subscribe to the EndurElite YouTube channel or head on over to the blog at www.endurelite.com. Get social with us on Instagram, in the Facebook Training and Nutrition Club page. And until next time family a fast, stay fueled, stay focused, stay fast, and stay informed.

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