Guest Post by:

Michael J. Barr, PT, DPT, MSR
Sports Medicine Manager
MUSC Health Sports Medicine

Bicycling Charleston:  Health Benefits, Injury Prevention Techniques, and Safety Tips

The Lowcountry is becoming a more “bike friendly” area with the increasing number of bike paths and trails along with the launch of the first official city-wide bike share program, Holy Spokes. There are some significant health benefits of regular cycling for fitness, leisure, or general transportation. Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity; it will increase your heart rate and get your blood pumping, which can improve your overall fitness. Some additional benefits of regular cycling are:

  •         Increased cardiovascular fitness
  •         Increased muscle strength and flexibility
  •         Improved joint mobility
  •         Improved posture and coordination
  •         Decreased stress levels
  •         Reduced anxiety and depression

Just like with any type of sports or physical activities, there are always some levels of risk of injury. Some of the more common cycling related injuries are: knee pain (patellofemoral syndrome, patellar or quad tendinitis, IT band friction syndrome), head injuries, neck and back pain, and wrist/forearm pain or numbness. But again, like with all activities, there are also injury prevention techniques that can be implemented to reduce the risk of injury:

  • Stretch before and after cycling — focus on hamstrings, hip flexors, piriformis, IT band, gastrc/soeum complex (calf stretching), wrist flexors, and extensors.
  • Core and expecially periscapular musculature strenthening to improve your posture and stability
  • Proper seat and handle bar positioning
  • Always wear a helmet!

In addition to the injury prevention techniques, here are some safety tips to keep in mind when getting on a bike:

  1. Protect your head. Always Wear a Helmet.
  2. See and be seen. Wear clothes that make you more visible to traffic and other cyclists.
  3. Avoid biking at night. But if you do bike at night, adapt your bike to include reflectors and lights and ride on streets that are well lit.
  4. Stay alert. Always keep a lookout for obstacles in your path.
  5. Go with the flow. Ride with the flow of traffic, and use the appropriate hand signals.
  6. Learn the rules of the road. Bicyclists must obey the same rules as motorists; read and follow all state laws, traffic signs, and rules for operating a vehicle on the road.
  7. Bicycle Readiness. Adjust your bike so it fits you (raise or lower handle bars and seat), make sure wheels are securely attached (mostly if you have quick release wheels), and always check your brakes before starting to ride.

Riding a bike is a great activity for healthy living and can allow you to enjoy your surroundings while getting a workout at the same time. But, please remember to protect yourself by following these injury prevention and safety tips while enjoying the roads. 

References:

Jewett, Amy, et al.  Bicycle helmet use among persons 5 years and older in the United States.  Journal of Safety Research, volume 59, December 2016.

Mueller, Natalie, et al. Health impact assessment of active transportation: A systematic review.  Preventative Medicine, volume 76, July 2015.

Loyola University Health System, Transportation and Safety Tips

Stop Sports Injuries – Preventing Cycling Injuries