Friday, August 7, 2009

Risk Of Osteoporosis In Male Cyclists

Now that I've gotten your attention, the picture of the CT scan on the left shows a healthy tibia (shin bone) while the one on the right shows one that is osteoporotic.

Now, here's the very surprising news that I read from this article recently. In their study, the researchers found that the group of serious male cyclists had greater rates of osteoporosis when compared to a group of control subjects. That's very surprising as women are more usually prone to having osteoporosis as compared to men.

The very exact reason why cycling is an excellent exercise also has its dramatic drawback because of its low weight bearing nature. Less weight bearing means less loading on your bones and joints (that's why it's good), but it also means that it doesn't stress your bones enough to stimulate it. Our bones need a certain degree of weight bearing stress to stimulate it to regenerate to form new and stronger bone. Hence, some degree of weight-bearing is not only good for the bones but also necessary.

In this study, the serious male cyclists (rides 7-22 hours a week and 9.4 years of racing experience), had lower body fat, more muscle and greater calcium intake compared to an age and weight matched control group. However, they also had 2.5-3 times greater rates of osteoporosis and osteopenia (near-osteoporosis).

So what's a biker gotta do about this, you'll ask? The researchers didn't offer any advice, but it'll be fair for me to suggest that a modest amount of running and/ or strength training in a standing position (hence weight bearing) will probably do the trick. Want something more challenging, try rock climbing.


Smathers, AM et al (2009). Bone Density Comparisons In Male Competitive Road Cyclists and Untrained Controls. Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise. Feb; 41(2): 290-296

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