Regular cycling can ward off arthritis and reduce effects, says hospital consultant and orthopaedic surgeon

Patients in Royal Bournemouth hospital benefit from 30-minute sessions on the bike

by Simon_MacMichael   December 15, 2011  

Artificial knee model (Rama - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 France license)

Patients at a hospital in Dorset who are suffering from problems related to their joints are being prescribed cycling as a way of heading off the onset of conditions such as arthritis and reducing the need for hip replacement operations.

According to Rob Middleton, consultant and orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, cycling on a regular basis can prevent muscle wastage as delaying the onset of arthritis and reducing its effects, reports the Bournemouth Echo.

At a lecture at the hospital this week, Mr Middleton outlined the findings of a trial conducted there that saw patients cycle for 30 minutes a day on either a static or a moving bicycle.

One of those who attended the talk, Lindley Owen, who is a consultant in public health for Bournemouth and Poole Primary Care Trust, said “It was a groundbreaking lecture, the most interesting I have heard for 20 years.”

Mr Middleton, whose reveals on his website that he regularly takes part in sportives, explained that while osteoarthritis is often thought to be an issue relating to cartilage and bones, it could also be considered as one related to the muscles.

He cited that one study had found that rabbits that were allowed to exercise freely did not develop arthritis, while those that were prevented from exercising did.

The consultant added that while professional cyclists regularly displayed signs of arthritis, it was only once they had retired from competition and reduced their levels of exercise that they tended to suffer the pain characteristic of the condition.

According to Mr Middleton, engaging regularly in non-load bearing exercise will prove more beneficial than the use of stem-cell treatment or nanotechnology for repairing joints.

Mr Owen, whom the Bournemouth Echo described as ‘a keen cyclist’ told the newspaper: “The implications of what Rob Middleton is saying have enormous impact, not just for people, but organisations that deal with health care.

“Hip replacements are now the most common operation in the developed world and this could save thousands.

“You won’t see a major change in the NHS on the back of one trial but you will have evidence backing up the idea.

“I have heard a lot of lectures in my time and it’s not often I get excited any more, but the lecture was ground breaking.”

An article on the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s website highlights a study by US governmental health body the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found that regular cycling was effective in helping prevent osteoarthritis and dealing with its effects in sufferers.

According to sports scientist Karen Hamby, cited in the article, "In comparison to other exercises, cycling is a relatively knee friendly activity that can help improve knee joint mobility and stability."

The charity Arthritis Research UK includes a wide variety of bike rides as part of its fundraising activities.

Not all medical professionals agree with the benfits of cycling when it comes to arthritis, however; as we reported two years ago, researchers at Iran's Tehran Medical University claimed that regular cyclists had a higher than average chance of contracting the condition in the first place.


12 user comments

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Really interesting article. Thanks

posted by Super Domestique [1686 posts]
15th December 2011 - 21:34


Interesting indeed, I'm 74, nine years ago bad knees (work related)almost stopped my cycling, no power just pain at top of stroke. Fixed gear solved the problem getting the pedals over, never looked back. Always preferred fixed gear anyway. fixed gear for me flew in the face of logic but it saved my cycling. Still riding the track league by the way.


antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1103 posts]
15th December 2011 - 23:39


Very interesting article. As someone with premature and unfortunately relatively advanced osteo-arthritis in one hip (37 years old), I know that it can be very painful indeed. However there is a noticable improvement in both the hip mobility, and pain if i ensure that I spend at least some time on the bike every day.

Rather counter-intuitively, the harder the ride, the better the hip feels - presumably because it stimulates the muscles to support the joint better.

Always good to see that medical science is keeping up with my own observations. Smile

Of course, I will take this as an excuse to spend even more time on the bike now!

posted by Robin Dickson [9 posts]
16th December 2011 - 12:55


Good to know I am not the only one to suffer at younger age too.

Although I also feel sorry for you Robin.

posted by Super Domestique [1686 posts]
16th December 2011 - 13:03


Interesting article - with 'ritic knees I noticed they had definitely improved with a daily ride, and I feel the annoying pain coming back when I'm off the bike for more than a couple of days. When I get back on the bike, there's a slight pain hump but that goes away and the action of pedalling gets much better from then on. Keeping the joints working is the key.

posted by Cauld Lubter [126 posts]
16th December 2011 - 13:23


I love going out on my bike but 20 yrs of rugby at a decent level have left my knees shot. I thought it was just me being optimistic but it seems riding the bike obviously does work. Smile

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

posted by stumps [3200 posts]
16th December 2011 - 15:20


I too am a sufferer. 54 now and had it for over 30 years in my right hip. I pretty much gave up proper riding 10 years ago but over the last 8 weeks have started again to try and combat it. Some pain but the odd ibuprofen and glucosamine/chondroitin seem to keep me going.
Trying to justify the buying of a new road bike, something more up to date and comfortable than my old Orbea!

posted by peterben [63 posts]
16th December 2011 - 18:26


I have arthriitis through too much running on the roads. I find that I can sit on my bike all day long and do not feel like an old man next day.If I was to run 2 miles I would be in a lot of discomfort the next day. I took up cycling 12 years ago and at 67 I am still cycling. I had hoped that I would still be running at 70 but know, God willing, I will still be cycling well in to my 70's Non impact sports/activities are to be recommended. Also listen to your body as you know your problems far better than an doctor. Warm weather also helps and a gentle stretch after a ride followed by a warm bath or shower.


posted by Jim Neville [9 posts]
16th December 2011 - 21:42


I was diagnosed with Arthritis at 34. I had 6-years of trying various drugs that worked for a while but once the side effects kicked in, it wasn't worth having the minimal relief they offered.

I decided to stop taking the drugs and started cycling again. My arthritis is barely noticeable now and I have lost about a stone in weight without even trying. I reckon this study holds some water

I, like Jimbo, struggle with running. My feet even ache when I've been on a 2-hour trail round the shops (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it); but I can do 65-miles on the bike without feeling sore the following day.

I encourage anyone to take up cycling. I just wish I'd not had the 12-year break. I'm 43 now and fitter than I've ever been.

Keep pedalling!

Chris D

posted by wingsofspeed68 [59 posts]
17th December 2011 - 10:02


wingsofspeed68 wrote:
I,like Jimbo, struggle with running. My feet even ache when I've been on a 2-hour trail round the shops (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it); but I can do 65-miles on the bike without feeling sore the following day.(/quote]

It's funny how we can wander aimlessly around the bike shops for hours yet a trip to Morrisons or Tesco's or the shops with her indoors has us knackered Wink

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

posted by stumps [3200 posts]
17th December 2011 - 20:06

1 Like

There should be plenty of data to confirm or contradict the hypothesis that regular cycling reduces (or delays) the need for hip replacements, from countries, such as The Netherlands, where a large number of people cycle regularly, well into old age.

The data should be treated with some caution, as some countries may provide hip replacements more readily than others and, perhaps, with shorter waiting lists.

I wonder what the data says about arthritis of the wrist and hand, and how this has changed since the onset of the fashion for mountain-bike style handlebars and geometries...

posted by hmb [4 posts]
19th December 2011 - 13:33

1 Like

Lots of great advise and support Smile
I'm 49 years old and just started cycling about two months ago. I started cycling to get fit and also try to fix some hip pain I was getting over the previous 8 months or so.
The original hip pain did seem to be improving, but I started to get pain (although not as bad) in the other side of the hip.
Long story short, I have been diagnosed with Osteoarthritis yesterday.
I'm so glad that it seems that others are getting better with cycling.
I just picked up my new summer bike the day before the diagnosis :-0
So fingers crossed I can get the same results!

posted by Ruby2 [7 posts]
25th February 2015 - 21:09