Like to bike? Your knees will thank you and you may live longer, too

HEARD ON MORNING EDITION – A substantial body of evidence supports the health benefits of cycling, everything from strengthening the immune system to boosting the likelihood of living longer.

Now, a new study finds people who are in the habit of riding a bike are significantly less likely to have osteoarthritis and experience pain in their knees by age 65, compared to people who don’t bike.

The study, which was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, and published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s flagship peer-reviewed journal, included about 2,600 men and women, with an average age of 64 years old.

They were surveyed about their physical activity over their lifetime. As part of the study, researchers took X-ray images to evaluate signs of arthritis in their knee joints.

“Bicyclers were 21% less likely to have X-ray evidence and symptoms of osteoarthritis compared to those who did not have a history of bicycling,” explains study author Dr. Grace Lo of Baylor College of Medicine.

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Cycling enthusiast Brooks Boliek calls biking his “longevity drug,” and the research backs him up on that.

“I was surprised to see how very strong the benefit was,” Lo says given the profile of the participants.

The people enrolled in the study were not competitive athletes, but rather “average” people, ranging from their mid-40’s up to 80 years old. All of them had elevated risks of developing knee arthritis due to weight, family history or former injuries.

The study can not prove cause and effect, given it was an observational study that assessed osteoarthritis at one point in time.

But the findings, which are published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, validate the advice many health care providers give to patients about the benefits of cycling and other non weight-bearing exercises …


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