Many people with low back pain have trouble finding the right form of exercise that provides a good aerobic workout and is still gentle enough for their back. Aerobic exercise helps to condition and strengthen the muscles and keep the spinal structures healthy, which in turn helps to reduce back pain. In addition, there is research indicating that doing exercise on stationary bikes may actually reduce some patients' perception of chronic low back pain.

Often, after trying an overly-intensive or high-impact exercise program, it is natural for patients to become discouraged and hesitant to seek out other forms of aerobic exercise. Other patients may avoid exercise entirely for fear that it will aggravate their low back pain. The key is to find a mode of exercise that is comfortable and helps to heal a sore back. For many patients, using an exercise bike is an excellent option for a low stress work out.

Health Benefits of Riding Stationary Exercise Bikes

Riding on a stationary exercise bike provides a variety of health benefits, and tends to be particularly suitable for people with certain types of back conditions.

  • Exercise biking provides a gentle, low-impact workout without putting too much stress on the spine. Although some forms of exercise may be too rough for patients experiencing low back pain (such as running or even biking on the road), riding a stationary exercise bike allows patients to engage in exercise without jarring the spine.
  • The exercise bike is often more comfortable for certain back conditions. While it is not universally true, some patients with the following conditions tend to find that an exercise bike provides a tolerable form of aerobic exercise:
    • Spinal stenosis: For patients with spinal stenosis, leaning forward on an upright exercise bike (rather than a recumbent bike) is an ideal form of aerobic exercise, as they tend to feel more comfortable flexed forward rather than sitting or standing up straight.
  • Osteoarthritis: Patients who have osteoarthritis may find that stationary biking keeps their joints flexible, reduces stiffness and strengthens the muscles that support the joints, while still being comfortable and low impact.
    • Riding an exercise bike strengthens major muscle groups to improve back support. Riding an exercise bicycle strengthens the leg and thigh muscles, including the hamstrings in the back of the thigh. While riding the bike, there are two components to the stroke: the push and the pull. Both strokes are important, as pushing down on the pedals requires the use of the quadriceps, while the pull motion works the hamstrings. It is often helpful to picture the foot going in a circle, pushing on the down-stroke and pulling on the up-stroke.

    Dr. J. Talbot Sellers is a physiatrist specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of spine pain at NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin. He has decades of experience using physical therapy, rehabilitation, and injections to treat painful musculoskeletal conditions.

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