Pain Relief and Aerobic Benefits of an Exercise Bike

Pain Relief and Aerobic Benefits of an Exercise Bike

While riding exercise bikes doesn't specifically target the abs and back muscles, these muscle groups help keep the body in the proper position by aligning the pelvis and preventing hyperextension of the back.

Maintaining good control of the abdominal and back muscles is especially important when using an upright exercise bike (as opposed to a recumbent model). To work the abdominal muscles even more, patients can focus on tightening them as they ride.

  • Using exercise bikes improves muscular flexibility and range of motion. Muscles and ligaments that aren't conditioned through regular exercise can contract and spasm, increasing stiffness and discomfort. Riding an exercise bike improves the flexibility of leg muscles (especially the hamstrings), which further reduces low back pain from muscle strain.

    Importantly, patients should also stretch their hamstrings twice each day on a regular basis to help reduce stress on the low back. Regular exercise, such as stationary biking, also helps maintain the range of motion and flexibility of the many joints in the spine, which can become stiff and painful with disuse.
  • Aerobic exercise on stationary bikes improves cardiovascular health and circulation. An exercise bike provides a gentle form of cardiovascular activity. Aerobic exercise stimulates the capillaries in the muscles, which helps oxygen and nutrients to be more easily delivered to the muscles. With better circulation, strained muscles and other soft tissue problems in the low back are able to heal more quickly.
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In general, aerobic exercise is an excellent pain fighter. Any form of aerobic exercise increases the body's release of endorphins, a natural pain blocker. Endorphins also serve to help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, all of which are common for people suffering from ongoing back pain.

In fact, one study shows that stationary exercise biking may alter pain perception. Although more research is needed on the topic of pain perception and aerobic exercise, a study presented to the American College of Sports Medicine in 2000 by Martin Hoffman, M.D. showed that riding an exercise bike helped reduce the discomfort of patients suffering from chronic low back pain.

The study found that after riding an exercise bike at a moderate intensity for up to thirty minutes, patients reported feeling less pain after riding than they did before riding.1 Based on the preliminary results of this small study, exercise biking and other gentle forms of exercise may be helpful in reducing patients' perception and feelings of pain.

In addition to exercise bikes, there are many other forms of exercise that usually do not place too much stress on the spine. Examples of low impact, low stress forms of aerobic exercise include exercise walking, yoga, pilates, tai chi, aquatic therapy, or swimming.

As with any exercise program, consult a physician before beginning to make sure that the program is appropriate, safe and effective.

Reference:

  1. Medical College of Wisconsin. "Exercise: a Natural Reliever for Chronic Low Back Pain." Healthlink. 2000.
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Article written by: J. Talbot Sellers, DO