Ask the Expert: Does Indoor Cycling Help Bone Health?

This article from our archives first appeared in ICA in 2012 and is always relevant. It’s seven years later, I’m seven years older, I still do most of my training on a bike, and if it’s a good reminder for me, I know it is for many of you as well. Now will you excuse me while I go to the gym to lift some heavy weights?

I received this question from an ICA member: “One of my riders asked me if indoor cycling is weight-bearing enough to be beneficial for someone dealing with osteopenia. My guess was yes (especially when climbing) but told her I would investigate this. Any thoughts or insights or studies that I could pass along?”

For the answer, I went to someone with far more knowledge than me! This is an important issue for all of us and our students, so make sure you are informed.

To best answer this question I turned to the expert on this subject. Melissa Marotta is a senior medical student at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, Vermont. She is also a STAR 3 Spinning® instructor and certified personal trainer (American Council on Exercise), so she can answer from firsthand experience what the true impact of indoor cycling might be on bone health. From what I know of Melissa (and from what is evident in her article below), she is also an in-depth researcher. She is the principle investigator of an ongoing clinical trial of exercise heart rate monitors for the treatment of anxiety. Her other research interests include health literacy, patient-physician communication, and the psychological effects of heart rate training. 




The Risks of Weak Bones


  1. Very informative. Thx for sharing

  2. I am an Osteofit Instructor in Canada and a Schwinn Indoor Cycling Instructor and unfortunately spinning is not a bone building exercise. We cannot build bone, we maintain bone density with the proper exercises.

    1. Author

      Always good to get corroboration from an expert. Hopefully, readers will look to the provided list of alternative options to cycling to build bone!

      I’ll meet you in the weight room!
      After we ride, of course! =)

  3. I am an Osteofit certified instructor in Canada and unfortunately, cycling is not recognised as a “bone building” exercise. However I still love it for many good reasons.

    1. Author

      Thanks Judith, always good to get corroboration from an expert.
      I’ll meet you in the weight room!
      After we ride, of course! =)

  4. Your knees….my back. I am so grateful for cycling and Spinning, because they allow me to keep fit and strong without bothering my back too much. But my years of running and high impact aerobics have been over for me for the past 15 years because my back cannot take any kind of pounding anymore (even hiking is out). So I often wonder if I am going to be able to reduce bone loss without those higher impact activities. But, we both should be able to weight train which is good news – knee or back issues aside – as long as we carefully monitor those joints. Hopefully that will be enough!

  5. Hey, Dr. Melissa, great to see you on ICA and addressing this important, but confusing, topic. This is such a bummer for those of us who have both osteopenia and bad knees…..a key reason why many of us cycle instead of those other activities that are high on the list (and caused our knee injuries). I also teach Pilates and think it is at least somewhat helpful because it uses resistance and body weight in everything. More calcium and hope for the best!

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