Is cycling good for knee arthritis?

On Sunday 26th May 2024 the world’s greatest festival of cycling, Ride London, returns. This huge event will see cyclists from across the UK take part in different challenges in London and Essex.  

If cycling is a passion of yours but your knees are getting in the way of doing what you love, you may think that being diagnosed with arthritis will put a stop to your cycling days. 

However, this isn’t the case at all — cycling can be very good for knee arthritis. Discover more about how cycling can help with knee arthritis here.

Arthritis of the knee

Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation in your joints and can lead to symptoms such as swelling, stiffness and pain. Any joint can develop arthritis, but it is most commonly diagnosed in the knee. This is because the protective cartilage in your knee begins to break down, leading to bony growths, reduced joint space, and subsequent pain  and swelling.

There are many different types of arthritis, but typically osteoarthritis, post-traumatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis develop in the knee joints. 

Arthritis of the knee can range from mild to severe. When your condition is mild, you may start to feel slight pain and stiffness when moving your knee. As arthritis progresses to severe, the cartilage in your knee wears away almost completely, which can lead to immobility. 

Does exercise help arthritis?

Contrary to popular belief, exercise is very good for arthritis. Although it may feel as though you are putting strain on your joints, the movement is strengthening them. Exercise can also help improve your flexibility and mobility, as well as keep you fit and healthy. 

Walking, jogging, swimming, yoga and cycling are all joint-friendly activities. Your physiotherapist will be able to advise you on the best exercises for your condition. This will depend on the intensity of your arthritis, so it is important to consult with your physiotherapist before taking up new exercises.

Is cycling good for knee arthritis?

Cycling is great for knee arthritis because it puts much less strain on your body than running or contact sports. Cycling both indoors and outdoors is beneficial for your condition as it keeps your knee joints moving without putting too much pressure on them.

Cycling is a great exercise to condition the knee joints, to ultimately help reduce stiffness and increase your muscle strength, which boosts your mobility. 

No matter how severe your knee arthritis is, you can find a type of cycling that suits you. For example, electric bikes and battery pedal-assisted bikes can work well if your condition is more severe, as minimal strain is put on your joints and the bike will support your knees as you cycle. 

If your arthritis is in its early stages, then an indoor bike or mountain bike can be ideal to help you build up strength and mobility in your knee joints. 

Benefits of cycling for knee arthritis

There are many benefits of cycling for knee arthritis, such as: 

  • strengthening your muscles
  • improving mobility
  • helping you maintain a healthy weight – this puts less pressure on your joints
  • improving your knee joint function 
  • enhancing your balance
  • boosting your range of motion in the knee joint 
  • improving your mood – exercise releases endorphins which can help make you feel happy

By cycling regularly, you should be able to decrease your symptoms of knee arthritis and improve your health at the same time. 

Cycling with arthritis in the knee

When cycling with knee arthritis, you do need to be mindful of your condition. First, you need to find the right bike for you; indoor, outdoor, road or mountain bike.  Make sure that it works with your body and will not push you too far. 

Wearing knee supports can help protect your knee joints further and offer some comfort while riding. Make sure you also wear the right cycling gear for the type of bike you are using. This means helmets and protective clothing when cycling outdoors.

Don’t push yourself too fast too soon either; go at a steady pace so you are not overdoing it. Always stretch before and after cycling too. Warming up prepares your muscles and joints for the ride ahead. Cooling down helps them relax and prevents stiffness and soreness the next day. 

What else can I do to help knee arthritis?

As well as cycling, there are a number of things you can do to help manage your knee arthritis: 

  • maintain a healthy weight – this reduces the pressure and strain put on your knee joints
  • eat a well-balanced diet
  • take your prescribed medication
  • try physiotherapy – this can help strengthen your knee joint further
  • undergo any treatment recommended by your doctor

While knee arthritis can’t be cured, its symptoms can be alleviated and you can strengthen your knee joint and regain mobility over time.

Talk to our physiotherapy team today

If you have knee arthritis and you’re taking part in a cycling event this summer like Ride London, the support of our expert physiotherapy team can help reduce your risk of injury and ensure you are in the best form possible to cycle. 

At Guy’s and St Thomas’ Specialist Care, our physiotherapy services include private consultations, joint mobilisation and soft tissue massage therapies, and more. Our facilities are complete with a fully-equipped gym, as well as a Pilates studio and so you know you will be getting the very best treatment for your arthritis. 

If you are struggling with knee arthritis, book an appointment today. Our physiotherapy team can provide a personalised treatment plan to help you effectively manage your knee arthritis.