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 Livestrong.com 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.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.