« Quality Training | Main | Workout Analysis »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Great information, but here's a question I haven't really seen answered anywhere: is mountain biking good for bone health? is it better than road cycling? how does it compare to weight lifting?

Intuitively I feel like the rough terrain and the constant jarring and constant lifting of the front end of the bike for example would provide some benefit for bone health.

Thanks for your thoughts on this subject.

Johan Moraal

How about mountain biking without any suspension? I have a feeling that could be good for at least bones in lower back and shoulders.

Joe Friel

Gregg--Working off of my memory now (that can be a bit shaky) but I recall coming across a study of MTBers that found it was a bit better than road cycling for bone health.

Doug Jansen

Joe - thanks for bringing attention to this important topic. I'm 48, compete on and off road, and have trained 500+ hours per year for the last decade. I cross train in winter months with skate technique XC skiing. Weight bearing, but no impact. I did no other weight bearing activity.

Last spring, while riding an easy off-road trail at a slow pace, I dabbed and rolled my ankle. A few hours later, a plate, six screws and two pins held my tib/fib together. What happened was too benign to cause that kind of damage.

After a full recovery, I got a bone density scan, since I heard about low bone density in cyclists. Sure enough, I have osteopenia, and my left hip is actually categorized as high risk of fracture. My doctor gave me choice of risky prescription drugs or add impact activity to my routine. Obviously I opted for the latter.

I began running, which was unpleasant to start. I do not plan to run more than one hour per week. From survey of studies, it sounds like short, intense runs may be more effective than long, slow runs. I've never been one for indoor workouts, so not sure if I could adopt a plyometrics routine. Is it unwise for a fit person my age to take up running? It is tough to ease into, since I have a substantial cardio base.

Thanks again for this series of posts. Lots of pertinent information here.


I think the article Gregg might be interested in is Sally Warner’s University of Utah PhD thesis, eventually published as Warner SE et al. Bone mineral density of competitive male mountain and road cyclists. Bone 2002; 30(1): 281-6. “In conclusion, endurance road cycling does not appear to be any more beneficial to bone health than recreational activity in apparently healthy men of normal bone mass. Higher bone mineral density in the mountain cyclists suggests that mountain cycling may provide an osteogenic stimulus that is not inherent to road cycling.”

To the extent that an adequate intake of calcium is important to bone health, it is nice to see that calcium is part of the mineral composition of some energy drinks and gels (e.g. Gatorade Recover, Hammer RecoverRite, Gu gel packets and Gu recovery brew), though it isn’t in most of the products these brands propose for use exercise (Gu Gel seems to be the exception) – Joe, do you know why? Replacing calcium losses from sweating in real time, as it is occurring, seems like it might do a better job at protecting bones than a once-a-day supplement.

Joe Friel

Doug Jansen - Thanks for your personal insight. Very interesting and probably much more likely to get peoples' attention than research. As to your question, I see no reason why a 48 year old shouldn't or couldn't successfully add a running routine. Good luck!


great info!! i'm just getting into running and i didn't realize how good it was for my bones!

Calvin Gehlen

Thanks for your post.

I'd be interested to see if sport-specific strength training such as run/bike hill repeats would also have a positive effect on bone health.

Certainly from the studies you have noted, there's a lot of good reasons to hit the resistance exercises in addition to the usual swim/bike/run

John Post, MD

Joe - excellent review as usual. I think the take home lesson as we understand it in 2011 is that awareness and concern are half the battle. Few of us at 25 think about our health status at 65...but we're beginning to. Being cognizant that choices of what we do and what goes in our mouths in 2011 have a direct effect on our state of well being in 2051 is a great start!

Thanks, John Post, MD


Thanks for this post. As a tennager i got into quite serious 400/800m track training. Then i experienced some teeth problems thay i had never had before. I think it's due to insufficient level of minerals and maybe some vitamins. Do You think it's possible?

Thanks, Jack

Greg Damian

About five years ago, I was also diagnosed as osteopenic. I had been a middle distance runner and triathlete for 15 years. I was 43. Over the last five years I have shifted my exerice to focus on weight lifting and away from cycling and swimming. I have seen slow but steady improvements in my bone mineral density in followup scans.




I just found this blog (just started mountainbiking)so this will be my first post.
On the matter of deminaralisation, if i remember correctly
Osteoclasts (cells that break down bone ) are stimulated by protons (H+) this stimulation causes an efflux of calcium (Ca2+) So its part of the proton buffering system and delays acidification.

So sports on and like cycling and long distance running (long duration at or above Anearobic threshhold) could lead to (temporary) demineralisation.

weight lifting probably leads to "thicker" bone via hormonalpath ways (increase in testosteron!?)

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Joe Friel's Sponsors

Blue Competition Cycles
"Specialized Bikes is my newest sponsor. I’ve been impressed with their bikes for a long time so I tried one. Had to have it. What a great ride!"

D2 Shoes
"I’ve been using custom-made D2 Shoes for years. Currently on my fourth pair. And, yes, they have midsole cleats as described in my blog."

ADS Sports Eyewear \
"ADS Sports Eyewear makes all of my glasses for casualwear, reading, cycling, golf and more. Hundreds of models from all the major manufacturers."


Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner