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Is Bike Riding Good for Osteoarthritis of the Knee?

author image Rachel Nall
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.
Is Bike Riding Good for Osteoarthritis of the Knee?
Bicycle riding can relieve the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis. Photo Credit: g-stockstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative form of arthritis that results from wear and tear to the knee joint and knee cartilage over time. Your knees, hips, shoulders and hands are most susceptible to osteoarthritis damage. If you experience osteoarthritis, you can engage in low-impact exercises like bicycle riding. There are many types of bicycle riding, however, and some may be better than others for arthritis treatment.

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Recommended Types

While outdoor bicycle riding allows you to see scenery and be outdoors, the lumps and bumps of an outdoor bicycle ride, particularly if you're mountain biking, might be too hard on your knees. Instead, try stationary bicycle riding, which is less hard on the knees. Recumbent bicycles, another option, allow you to cycle in a sitting position. These bicycles might be a good option for you if you also experience lower back pain because the recumbent position reduces the strain on your joints.

Fit Considerations

“Cycling is considered to be low-impact on the knees,” said Mike Cushionbury, “Bicycling” magazine editor in a interview. “But there are a few bike fit mistakes that can void that.” If your bicycle is improperly fitted, you may experience greater strain on the knee joint. To protect your knees, you should set your bike seat at a height where you can straighten the leg on the pedal’s downstroke. Setting the seat too low can place pressure on the knees. If you find your knees are bowing out slightly when you pedal, this is another sign that your seat is too short.


While cycling is a low-impact exercise, it can result in some stiffness and soreness. To minimize this and prevent injury, warm up the muscles with a five-minute walk or pedaling session with very light resistance. Stretch the muscles you are about to work, paying careful attention to the quadriceps and calves, which pull on your knees. After you exercise, taking an anti-inflammatory medication or icing your affected knee can help to reduce swelling and stiffness.

If You Experience Pain

While it’s natural to experience some slight stiffness in the knees when you begin to exercise, this should subside as your muscles become warmer. What is not normal, however, is pain. If your knees begin to hurt while you are riding your bicycle, cease the exercise. Speak to your physician about your symptoms and consider an evaluation with a bicycle fit specialist who can instruct you in proper ways to fit your bike.

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