PostHeaderIcon Does Cycling Cause Bone Loss?

This is a myth! In fact cycling actually increases bone strength and density.

Dr Mirkin an avid cyclist writes “I cannot find any studies showing that cycling weakens bones to increase fracture risk. Some studies show that competitive cyclists have lower bone mineral density in their spines than moderately-active, aged-matched men (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, February 2009; Osteoporosis International Reports, August 2003).These studies have been interpreted to mean that cycling increases risk for bone fractures beyond what you would expect from just falling off the bike. Bone density tests do not measure bones strength. They measure how much bones block X-rays that try to pass through them. The only way to measure bone strength is to see how much force it takes to break a bone.”

 Cycling & Bone Loss He goes on to write “The theory that cycling weakens bones flies in the face of our current understanding of bone metabolism. Any force on bones increases, and lack of force decreases, the rate of bone formation (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, November 2009). Astronauts in space lose bone because lack of force blocks their ability to respond to Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 that stimulates bone growth (Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, March 2004). All competitive cyclists know that hammering on the pedals while pulling up on their handle bars puts tremendous force on every muscle and bone in their bodies, and this should stimulate bone growth.”

So what then is the explanation for cyclists incurring broken bones? Well Dr Mirkin says “The most likely explanations for broken bones in cyclists are high-impact crashers and/or lack of vitamin D. I recommend that all cyclists get a blood test called Vitamin D3 in December or January. If it is below 75 nmol/L, they are deficient in vitamin D and at increased risk for breaking bones. To prevent fractures, they should do winter training in the southern sunbelt or take at least 800 IU of Vitamin D3 per day.”

 Cycling & Bone Loss So he is saying that vitamin D is very important to our health and fitness. This is not only true for cyclists but anyone who wants to maintain healthy bones. Some scientific studies show that vitamin D reduces non-vertebral fractures in patients over age 65 (Evidence-Based Medicine, October 2009). This is because the main function of vitamin D is to increase calcium absorption into the bloodstream. And a low level of calcium in our blood causes osteoporosis.

Women seem to be at an even greater risk of losing bone density and strength. Dr Mirkin says “A woman’s bones are strongest when she is twenty years old. After that, she continues to lose bone for the rest of her life, and for the first few years of menopause, the rate that she loses bones more than triples. A study from the University of Erlangen in Germany shows that vigorous exercise during the menopause helps prevent osteoporosis (Archives of Internal Medicine, May 2004).”

 Cycling & Bone Loss He goes on to say “In this study, fifty women lifted weights in group training sessions twice a week, and exercised by themselves twice a week. They also took calcium and vitamin D. As their muscles became stronger, so did their bones.”

All in all it seems that cycling can both increase bone strength and density. One further fact my wife and I both enjoy cycling. We are both in our 60’s and my wife has been on a calcium supplement for a few years because her bone density was not good. Over the last four years we have been taking cycling classes and cycling outdoors and her bond density has increased which has both pleased her and her doctor.

Cycling is good for your bones.

(Dr Mirkin and his wife are both avid cyclists. The above quotes were taken from Dr. Gabe Mirkin’s Fitness and Health E-Zine dated September 12, 2010)

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