Enjoying nature and doing something beneficial for your health by moving? Cycling is perfect for that! Whether on an e-bike or classically on a trekking or mountain bike: cycling gets you going and puts you in a good mood. Even if you suffer from back or knee pain, you can get on your bike and start cycling – if you bear a few essential things in mind.
More and more people cycle these days. E-bikes in particular are becoming more popular – for the commute to work, running everyday errands, or excursions into nature. It’s not surprising really. After all, cycling isn’t just more environmentally friendly than going by car, it’s also great fun! And those who cycle regularly are also doing something beneficial for their body.
What makes cycling so healthy?
Cycling has many positive effects on your health. In general, it’s great cardiovascular training: those who cycle regularly can strengthen their heart and improve circulation, which, in turn, helps supply the body with nutrients. In addition to working on your stamina, you’re also training and strengthening your leg and back muscles. Cycling can therefore help you reduce the risk of suffering from such widespread conditions as vein problems, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.
If you cycle regularly, you can feel an effect from your training even after a relatively short time: you will feel healthier and fitter and you will generally have more energy. Add to that a feeling of accomplishment – for example when you leave your car behind and cycle to work or to go shopping, or when you have completed your first little Sunday trip.
Cycling is perfect to incorporate more activity into your everyday life. Making an excursion into nature by bike also has a positive effect on mental well-being: exercise in the fresh air, in nature, helps you free your mind. You will notice how you feel more relaxed and calmer – and that everyday stress doesn’t have such an impact on you anymore.
Trips to castles, lakes, vineyards, along a river – there’s a lot to discover in your surroundings. If you need a little inspiration for your next journey, we recommend special cycling maps. They are available from the Tourist Information Office or in your town’s local book store. There are also great apps with routes showing different levels of difficulty. When looking at a suggested trail, don’t just pay attention to the length but also the gradient – save trips with steep ascents for later.
E-bike: tips for beginners
The popularity of e-bikes keeps increasing. Many people for whom “normal” cycling wasn’t an option have rediscovered their love of cycling, thanks to motorized e-bikes. As a matter of fact, these speedy vehicles are perfect for all those who haven’t exercised for a long time and want to gently return to being active. E-bikes can also be recommended for people later on in life and those with symptoms or preexisting conditions.
With an e-bike, you can determine and control the exertion yourself. In particular when going uphill or into town where you have to stop and start a lot, the heart rate can spike briefly. Thanks to the electrical assistance, uniform moderate strain is possible, meaning you don’t reach your limit so quickly.
E-bikes are also more gentle on your joints. Those with knee pain who cannot subject their knees to much strain are better off with an e-bike. The cycling intensity can be controlled via the degree of assistance, so less pressure has to be exerted on the pedals.
An e-bike therefore allows you to cycle and be active even with a lower fitness level. Once you’ve trained and achieved more stamina – which happens more quickly than you might think – you can turn off the assistance on a gentle ascent. This will give you even more power and motivation to stick with it and become fitter again.
Cycling with knee pain – is that possible?
Cycling is generally seen as gentle on the joints. The knees in particular are subjected to less strain compared with other sports. This may seem contradictory because you have to exert power on the pedals.
However, the body weight is mainly on the saddle, meaning not as much pressure is applied on the knee joints when pushing down on the pedals as is the case with running, for example. Because of the movement in a fixed plane, the knee is also less likely to twist than, for example, during walking. Owing to the moderate strain and consistent movement, the joints and cartilage are also supplied with nutrients more efficiently, and the development of synovial fluid is promoted.
But in cases of knee problems, it’s better to use a lower gear. E-bikes have the advantage that you can carefully get used to the exertion. And if your knees start hurting during a longer trip, the motor can provide the required support and relieve the knee.
As with all physical problems, you should definitely ask a physician whether cycling is appropriate for you if you suffer from knee pain. You can discuss together what in particular you have to bear in mind. Your physician may be able to prescribe a knee support which provides your joint with additional stability and gives you a feeling of confidence.
Back pain and cycling – what to bear in mind
We often hear cyclists complain about back pain after cycling. Does that mean cycling is bad for the back? The answer is: no. The opposite is the case. The movement ensures that the intervertebral disks are supplied with nutrients more efficiently without the back having to bear the entire body weight or the vertebrae being compressed by jerky movements as is often the case in other sports.
During cycling, the vertebral bodies are also stabilized in their interaction, and the back muscles are strengthened. This applies to the muscles along the spine in particular, primarily the lumbar spine. In addition, cycling stimulates circulation and can loosen tense muscles.
However: whether cycling can be recommended in cases of acute or chronic back pain depends on where the pain comes from. In cases of tense muscles, cycling is perfect. But if you have a trapped nerve or suffered an intervertebral disk prolapse or something similar, you must be careful. It’s therefore absolutely essential that you talk to your physician before you get on your bike. Depending on your diagnosis, your physician will be able to tell you whether cycling is suitable for you.
If you have tense or weak muscles or are suffering from non-specific back pain, activity is generally recommended to alleviate symptoms. A special back support that stabilizes your lumbar spine will provide additional help. It’s best to discuss this with your physician, too. What’s more, a back support doesn’t just help during cycling but can also assist you during everyday activities and make sure that you feel better.
So if cycling is generally beneficial for the back, why do some people suffer from back pain when cycling? The cause is usually an awkward posture on the bike – and that happens when the bike doesn’t suit the body. Never underestimate the correct frame geometry and size as well as the right setup of handlebars and saddle! In addition to the handlebar and saddle height, it is also the angle of the saddle and handlebars, the distance between the two, as well as the ergonomics of the handlebars that play an essential role. It’s best if you go to a specialist retailer to seek advice on buying a bike.
And our final tip is not to go too far. If you exceed your limits, your leg muscles will fatigue. And that will have an impact on your whole body: an incorrect posture will creep in during pedaling, which will quickly hurt your back.
Cycling correctly – that’s how
Do you want to start cycling and you have your physician’s go-ahead? Excellent! So you can properly enjoy cycling and being active for a long time, we have compiled a few tips for you:
Get professional advice when buying a bike. Which model is the right one for you depends on your plans. What type of routes do you want to master? Do you mainly want to cycle on asphalt, farm tracks, or in the woods? It’s also important that the frame size matches your body. Test a few different bikes to see which one feels right.
Once you’ve decided on a model, get a professional to help you with the setup. The saddle should be in a position where your leg still has a slight bend in it when the pedal is at its lowest point. When the pedal reaches its highest point, the knee should not be bent more than 90 degrees. Your foot should touch the pedal with the ball of the foot, not the heel. When pedaling, make sure that your foot isn’t bent too much.
Your upper body should lean slightly forwards. An angle of 15 to 20 degrees is ideal, with your arms being slightly bent. Adjust the handlebar height accordingly and pay attention to the distance between the handlebars and the saddle. In order to prevent subjecting your arms and wrists to unnecessary strain, the handlebars should be as wide as your shoulders.
Also get the professional to explain to you which tire pressure is best for you. The harder the tires are pumped up, the less natural suspension they can provide which helps cushion impact on your spine.
The right equipment for cycling and e-biking
In addition to the bike itself, another absolute must is a helmet. Never get on your bike without head protection! If you’re planning short trips on the weekend, the following equipment is also worth considering:
- Cycling pants: those who have gone on extended journeys know that high-quality cycling pants can be worth their weight in gold. They’re also available to wear underneath your “normal” shorts.
- Cycling glasses: they don’t just protect your eyes from the sun but also from dust, little stones that get thrown up, and insects when you’re out and about in nature.
- Cycling gloves: they’re not a must but they protect your hands from the wind – and, more importantly, in the event of a fall.
- Compression: exercise also makes a demand on your venous system. If you already have weak veins, medical compression stockings are advisable. But compression garments can also be used preventively to support your veins and keep them healthy.
- Supports: knees, lumbar spine, and elbows are subjected to strain during cycling. If these are weak areas for you, for example because of a preexisting condition, orthopedic supports can be helpful. They will provide additional stability and thus extra confidence during exercise. Tip: if you get a prescription from a physician, the costs can be borne by your health insurance company.
What else needs to be considered?
When you’re out and about in a beautiful landscape, there’s a lot to see, of course. But please always pay attention to traffic and keep an eye on the road. In the woods in particular or at blind spots, you need to be especially careful to prevent accidents with hikers or other cyclists.
And don’t forget: exercise should be fun above all else. If you haven’t exercised for a long time, you don’t have to try and climb the steepest hill. Look for trails that you can enjoy and may even give you a little challenge. When cycling through beautiful landscapes, you’ll notice the challenge less and get to enjoy nature more. And you will see how quickly your fitness level will improve – you will feel healthier, more energetic, and you will look forward to the next trip.
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