People who regularly ride bikes throughout their life are less likely to develop knee arthritis, a new study suggests.

Bicyclists are 17% less likely to have knee pain and 21% less likely to have symptoms of knee arthritis, compared to people who’ve never biked, researchers discovered.

It also appears that people who’ve biked all their lives have a lower risk of knee arthritis than people who’ve only pedaled at one point or another, results show.

“Each increase in the number of age periods engaged in bicycling resulted in lower likelihood of reporting knee pain” and knee arthritis detected by both symptoms and X-rays, said lead researcher Dr. Grace Lo, an associate professor of medicine in allergy, immunology and rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Doctors often encourage regular physical activity to prevent knee arthritis, but some exercises tend to be more effective than others.

For this study, researchers analyzed data from more than 2,600 people ages 45 to 79 participating in a study of knee arthritis. About half of the people said they had a consistent history of biking.

The participants were asked about their bicycling activities during four age periods of their lives — 12 to 18, 19 to 34, 35 to 49 and 50 or older. These activities could include either outdoor biking or riding an indoor stationary cycle.

The new study was published recently in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

“The big takeaway from this observational study is that if people are concerned about knee pain [and knee arthritis] later in life, biking may serve as a way to prevent this and that the more often they do it throughout their lives, the higher the probability of better knee health,” Lo said in a Baylor news release.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has more about knee arthritis.

SOURCE: Baylor College of Medicine, news release, May 13, 2024