Who’d ever have thought it. The ‘sport’ that we do can actually harm you. I’m not talking about the obvious bone breaks and over-the-bars events but a far more insidious problem. Osteoporosis.
Strange to say but the condition most associated with post-menopausal women can also affect cyclists; at the very least there is also a risk of suffering from osteopenia which is sub-normal bone density according to the article ‘Bad to the Bone‘ over on BikeRadar.
Why is osteoporosis a bad thing? Well, it’s a serious condition as you get older primarily because it weakens bones and leads to the risk of serious injury. Not only is there a lot of blood in bones which can cause problems if, say, you break your pelvis but in extreme cases that pelvis can break just crossing a room.
Such injuries can easily become life threatening and can cause major difficulty regaining mobility afterward as your general strength tends to ebb as your activity levels decrease. Certainly it’s something I’d like to avoid.
Admittedly it’s road riders most at risk as the hours they spend in the saddle with their bones supported and sweating out calcium and minerals leads to reduced bone density over time. But if you also just ride your bike without doing something which involves regular high impact exercise (and I don’t mean crashes!) then you might want to mix it up a bit.
Actually, the article does say that mountain bikers are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis than road cyclists because the vibration and strength needed helps keep relative density higher. Frustratingly though there’s no mention about whether sitting on the couch compares to someone at least doing something to keep fit although one of the commenters is clear that riders come off worse.
So that’s another reason to think about some form of cross-training like walking, running or team sports like football. If my IT band (that’s not a geeky rock group BTW!) allowed me I’d mix in some regular running to what I do. To do so might mean facing the physio and putting up with the pain of IT Band massages though which is a bit scary — it won’t do anything for cycling strength but it just might ward off a creeping enfeeblement!